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  Video Game Retrospectives

Spoiler-free archaeological retrospectives on games and game related books.

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All Indiana Jones Indiana Jones All Jurassic Park Jurassic Park
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Star Wars: DroidWorks

PC - Lucas Learning, 1996

Despite being tarnished with an ‘edutainment’ brush, DroidWorks’ core experience is a build-and-test gameplay loop which created a genre for such giants as Kerbal Space Program. Building your own robots and taking them through 3D levels is great fun, and the educational aspect is very well integrated.

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SD F-1 Grand Prix

SNES - Vision System, 1995

Far from being just another low-effort kart racer, SD F-1 GP is an officially licensed Formula 1 game that is a perfect inventive blend of Mario Kart, F-Zero and Formula 1 (with cute cartoon animal drivers).

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Fixing Starship Creator (Part 2)

PC - Imergy, 2000

In which I turn 1998’s Star Trek: Starship Creator (27% - PC Games Magazine) into an immersive sim. Not content with writing a longer retrospective about Starship Creator than anyone has ever bothered to, I delved into the mission editor in order to see if we could fix the game's problems.

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Star Trek: Starship Creator & Warp II (Part 1)

PC - Imergy, 2000

Starship Creator is infamous for being a terribly boring Star Trek game, but it is much more than that. Envisioned as a 90s 'desktop toy', not an actual video game, there is fun to be had for Trek fans. I take another deep dive and, in Part 2, attempt to fix the game using its own mission editor.

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Jurassic Park Trespasser

PC - Dreamworks Interactive, 1998

A mammoth(!) archaeological retrospective on Jurassic Park Trespasser and why it belongs firmly in the pantheon of gaming history. Digging up its legacy, its contemporaries, faults and successes, and why the developers were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should.

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Ghostbusters Part 1: C64 and NES

C64 - David Crane, 1984 | NES - Bits Laboratory, 1986

The first two of the four Ghostbusters movie tie-in games ask very big questions. Can a video game evoke real emotions? Can it, for example, make you feel like you are in the scene in Ghostbusters where four out of shape, middle-aged men are forced to walk up 22 flights of stairs? Ghostbusters is a decent game until it answers that question with a resounding 'yes'.

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Star Wars - The Arcade Games

Arcade - Atari/Sega/Namco, 1983-2014

Each of the original Star Wars trilogy saw its own arcade cabinet release, and they all follow the same premise: you are sitting in a cockpit blasting your way through a number of famous scenes from the movies. Aside from in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, which is a top down view, the formula doesn't change, and as a result you can easily trace gaming history and technology improvements from Star Wars in 1983 through to Star Wars Battle Pod in 2014 (and beyond).

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Tomb Raider: The Amulet of Power

Mike Resnick, 2003

The first Tomb Raider book was marketed as a story that ties the fourth and sixth games together, but in fact the only reference is on the first page and then in an epilogue in which the author mistakes the villain of the games for someone Lara cares about. Before we take a look at the problems of how a real-world sex-symbol is written in the 2000s (spoilers, it's not good), it might be helpful to provide some context of the tone of these games.

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Indiana Jones in the Lost Kingdom and Revenge of Ancients

C64/PC/Mac - Mindscape, 1984/1987

How does Indy's first game outing compare to the Interactive Fiction adventure made years later by the same company? And how do the text adventures of old compare to 2020s ChatGPT style AI RPG games? Indiana Jones in the Lost Kingdom is the first (barely comprehensible) original Indy story outside of the movies, but its most egregious flaw is the use of “in” instead of “and” in the title, an outrageous offence to any Indy fan!

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The Dig

PC, Lucasarts - 1995

Adventure and slightly mystical archaeology with a strong and sassy explorer, created by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. No, not Indiana Jones, The Dig. I had just finished all of the Indiana Jones games ending with The Last Crusade and The Fate of Atlantis. Feeling a bit of point-and-click fatigue, I was looking for suggestions for action games with an Indiana Jones vibe, which turned up a recommendation for this 1995 Lucasarts classic.

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Indiana Jones' Greatest Adventures

SNES - Factor 5, 1994

Indiana Jones’ Greatest Adventures was released around the middle of the SNES’ lifespan, and it feels very mature and slick by SNES standards. The graphics and music are great and perfectly suit the SNES era. The slightly cartoony art style is very similar to that of the Super Star Wars games and there's a reason for that: it’s made with the same engine and structure. If you’re being less generous, you might describe it as a reskin, but more effort was spent than just sprite swaps.

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Star Wars: Yoda Stories

PC - Lucasarts, 1997

When Yoda Stories was released, I wrote to PC Gamer UK asking for its’ due and was told "No dice, heretic." by John Walker, co-founder of Rock Paper Shotgun. Many years later in perhaps the 2010s as roguelikes became more popular I tried to garner some appreciation on that very website’s forums by enticing people with the promise of a graphical Star Wars roguelike. I was met with essentially "No dice, heretic." by the internet. Third time’s a charm.

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Indiana Jones: The Atari Years

Atari, 1982/1985

Raiders of the Lost Ark, the first ever film to game adaptation, is in the style of Adventure which essentially invented this genre a year earlier. It’s also similar to the E.T. movie tie-in released soon after which was famously the biggest failure of a video game, perhaps ever. Most of Temple of Doom is spent releasing children from captivity much like you did as Michael Jackson in the Sega Mega Drive version of Moonwalker (1990).

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The Young Indiana Jones Games

NES/Mega Drive, 1993/1994

The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles mirrors the tv show of the same name, and if you’re familiar with the show then you will recognise almost all of it in some form. Instead of Indy's fun episodes as a spy, it follows the extremely harrowing war episodes in the trenches of France. With jaunty chiptunes! Instruments of Chaos Starring Young Indiana Jones meanwhile is an oddly constructed side-scrolling game which has the honour of the only Sega exclusive Indy game. Surprisingly, Young Indy is one of the better Indy platformers.

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