quinta-feira, 30 de abril de 2015

War In Middle Earth [1988, ZX Spectrum / MS-DOS / Amiga] Review - It's a Pixel THING - Ep.#47




Back in 1989 there was a game that always intrigued me. Every time I went to one of my favorite local ZX Spectrum videogame selling spots I got somehow mesmerized by the cover of War in Middle Earth. By that time I didn’t have any background on the magnificent J.R.R. Tolkien masterpiece.

Then, one day, I finally picked the game up and brought it home. Placed it in my Spectrum and run it. My first impressions were of complete blankness. I didn’t know what to do or to what I was looking at. Back then this was the main problem with pirated games that were normally sold in electronic stores without any kind of officious fiscal control that could protect the intellectual property of their creators. In this particular case, the original boxed game brought a forty-three page manual that, obviously, the pirated one didn’t have making it really hard for newbies to the Tolkien universe to understand.

Only a few years later I read the books and was absolutely blown away by the details, characters and storytelling that Tolkien had put into his work. So, by that time, around 1992, just when I was embracing PC gaming, I came across the DOS version and thought about giving it a second chance. By that time I had a whole new perspective about Middle Earth and all that is linked to it.

The game was released for the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, Apple IIGs, Atari ST, Amiga and DOS in 1988 by the Australian software company Melbourne House. If I recall correctly, it was my very first Real Time Strategy game and that’s where it all began. Then, after War in Middle Earth came Dune II, Warcraft, Command & Conquer, etc, etc..

Melbourne House was already familiar with J.R.R. Tolkien’s work. They’ve released, in 1982 and for all 8 bit machines, The Hobbit, an illustrated text adventure game that went being a bestseller game on the Commodore 64 and the BBC Micro with estimated total sales of more than 200.000 copies and also won, in ‘83, the Golden Joystick Award for best strategy game. The website worldofspectrum.org even stated that, and I quote, “The Hobbit was the first Spectrum game ever to sell a million copies”. An astonishing achievement for that time and, in 1984 was even released by the publisher a 78 page hint book named “A Guide to Playing the Hobbit” making it probably the first ever player’s guide to a videogame. Please correct me if I’m wrong!

So, getting back to War in Middle Earth, was it worth it? Is the game really that intense and absorbing as the Lord of the Rings’ books in which it is based?
The concept for this title was pulled off by Mike Singleton, a former English teacher and very successful eighties British author and freelance game designer that, unfortunately, left us in 2012 (1951-2012). He was considered the father of home computer gaming and his work will live on forever, ‘cause many of today’s titles had their roots in this man’s head.

War in Middle Earth is a fairly huge game set in a gigantic fantasy world that even to this day drags a countless number of fans that unite at this one and only webpage (www.warinmiddleearth.com) exclusively dedicated to the game. It combined both a large-scale army-unit level and a small-scale character level and everything just happens simultaneously. Middle Earth Westlands’ map is also a very important item for us to use and a physical copy of it came inside the box.

The game’s plot is obviously similar to the one from the books. The 16bit versions had additional adventuring features depicting the events from the Shire to Mount Doom.

Right at the start, Frodo, Pippin and Sam are surrounded by Nazgul riders and their first task is to travel to Rivendell, although we’re free to decide the game’s own progression.

The main goal is to take the ring to Mount Doom, but how we do it is completely up to us, the player. In the books, the ring bearer is Frodo, but, in War in Middle Earth Frodo can die. If this occurs, the ring simply passes to other character. But if it falls into the hands of the enemy, it will be taken to Barad-Dur, Sauron’s fortress in Mordor, and our quest will be forever lost. Also, if the enemy forces manages to enslave three allied citadels, the game will also end. So, let’s go find some treasures and recruit armies in this early amazing and involving real time strategy and role playing game.

Every time we start a new game, a new adventure will also take place, ‘cause there’s plenty to do, like, for instance, rethink new strategies and find all hidden objects.

Besides that first huge impact of the amazing cover art from that little plastic case from the ZX Spectrum game, the 8-bit versions of War in Middle Earth failed to impress. However, the 16-bit ones were considerably enhanced and all play and look identical.


The Amiga one has a significantly better audio environment, so, if you’re a real fan of Middle Earth, you might wanna check this early venture into Tolkien unmatched fantasy world.


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sexta-feira, 24 de abril de 2015

Trials Fusion with a Retro Twist [PC, 2014] - It's Play Time! - Ep.#4




Just to show the awesome "Retrospective" track that is part of the "Fault One Zero" downloadable pack! Genious!


If you're into retro - or not so retro - stuff, please subscribe at http://www.youtube.com/user/ThePixelTHING and visit http://www.facebook.com/PixelThing & http://twitter.com/Pixel_THING

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It's a Pixel THING's main theme by LASERS (Amsterdam).

segunda-feira, 20 de abril de 2015

Restoring my old IBM PS/1 486DX2 66MHz - It's a Pixel THING - Ep.#46




The PS/1 line of computers was IBM’s successful return to the home market in 1990 and this specific model from 1993 was the very first time that I saw a tower model, even before the Amiga 4000T arrived. I fell in love with it right away and started saving some money getting also a part-time job just to get one of these! Even so, it wouldn’t have been possible without the help of my parents, ‘cause these IBM machines were so freaking expensive, as you can see by the numbers printed in the original invoice that I’ve kept all these years! Its price was three hundred and ninety thousand escudos, around two thousand euros in today’s money!

It came originally with 4 megabytes of ram, one hundred and seventy megabytes of hard disk space and it’s a DX2 with 66 MHz and not a DX/33 as stated in the invoice. Through the years, I’ve managed to get some extra ram, to a total of 16 megabytes, and replaced the original hard drive so that I could get an astonishing number of five hundred and twenty eight megabytes for Windows 95 and games! Later I’ve also got a CD ROM drive and an ISA SoundBlaster compatible sound card that brought a new life to my favorite old DOS games.

Now let’s bring it back from the dead and listen to its startup amazing sounds!

The original PSU from my PS/1 died several years ago and, just now with the tip from my good friend Paulo_Becas, I realized that there are ATX to AT PSU converter cables. So, I’ve bought one of those from amigakit.com for about 15 euros and just used a spare ATX PSU that I had laying around.

Finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for! Let’s try a few classic games, some of my biggest addiction from that Era!
Back then my favorite game genre was the point’n’click adventure type, so, inevitably I had to try some. Starting with Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, the floppy disk edition that has no digitized voice. I have it on steam, though, and finished it recently. Such an amazing adventure!

This is the first time that I’m hearing music from Wolfenstein 3D, and I’m amazed by it! I remember to play this game with only the beeps from the PC speaker! By the way, the IBM PS/1 models have this pretty handy PC speaker volume knob in the front of the case! Awesome thinking! Not everyone had the possibility to buy an audio card. Back then, prices weren’t friendly at all! So, if we’re gonna play games with sound only from the PC speaker, let’s make it with style!

Another awesome point’n’click adventure game from Lucas Arts: Day of the Tentacle, with tons of hilarious unforgettable moments! And this one has some amazing digitized speech throughout the game! Just an amazing accomplishment from Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman, that you know… right?..

Moving on to another game, this time around it’s another title that I’m hearing, for the first time, its music and sounds using a sound card! I remember to play GODS at a friend’s house even before I bought my own IBM. It’s one of the greatest classic from the Bitmap Brothers!

Who hasn’t played the very first Micro Machines? It’s such an entertaining and funny little game that got me hooked for countless hours and even days! I don’t recall this degree of sluggishness.. It’s maybe a sound issue?!? Hummmmm.
I’ve already reviewed this game for my channel, so feel free to check it out clicking on the rectangle shown on your screen.

The Monkey Island franchise brings so many memories from those awesome 3.5 inch floppy disk Era! Such an amazing time and such an awesome piece of programming, again from Lucas Arts and the creative minds of Tim Schafer, Dave Grossman and Ron Gilbert. Did you know that the film series Pirates of the Caribbean somehow drank some inspiration from the Monkey Island games? This is the second installment of the franchise, LeChuck’s Revenge. Another awesome point’n’click adventure classic.

It can’t get more classic that this: DOOM 2, Hell on Earth, the second installment of ID Software’s groundbreaking franchise. There weren’t any big differences in gameplay and graphics from the original DOOM. The Johns – Carmak and Romero – just focused on more complex level design taking advantage from the natural computer hardware evolution. And, someone once stated that “it’s a keep on the hard drive forever game”.

This is the first time I’m trying Speedball 2 Brutal Deluxe on the PC. I used to play this game on the Amiga and it was considered by the press the best game ever made for that platform. Honestly, it’s not my kind of thing and, right now, I’m thinking of a ton more titles that are way better than this. Well, I’m testing it just to hear its main theme that I have on my iPod and absolutely love it.

Now comes a game that I spent so many time playing and enjoying. The very first Warcraft Orc and Humans, from Blizzard. Even today it continues to be so addictive! After I shot these images I spent the rest of the afternoon playing it! This isn’t just a “build base”, “build army” and “destroy enemy” type of RTS. We have also missions where we need to rescue friendly forces and besieged villages and it was a major breakthrough on the genre back in 1994. And it was highly enjoyable to play with a friend in multiplayer mode by modem or over local network.



So, guys! I hope that you’ve enjoyed this return to the past! It feels so good to have my old IBM working again! It was my first PC and, from the minute I’ve pushed the start button, it brought so many great memories from those years of DOS gaming!


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quarta-feira, 15 de abril de 2015

Video Game Pickups #4 - 27 Games + Stuff - It's a Pixel THING - Ep.#45




Let's take a look at the 27 video games, and other gaming related stuff, that I've added to my collection over the last couple of months! There's stuff for the PC, XBOX 360, PlayStation 2, Amiga, ZX Spectrum, Sega Dreamcast and for the original Xbox!

Enjoy!


If you're into retro - or not so retro - stuff, please subscribe at http://www.youtube.com/user/ThePixelTHING and visit http://www.facebook.com/PixelThing & http://twitter.com/Pixel_THING

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It's a Pixel THING's main theme by LASERS (Amsterdam).

quarta-feira, 8 de abril de 2015

Gotek Floppy Amiga Emulator Review - It's a Pixel THING - Ep.#44





As everyone knows, the Amiga 600 was intended to be the replacement for the long running and best seller Commodore 64, and it was supposed to be called A300. It was also considered one of the brand’s worst marketing and strategic errors. You can check my retrospective on this theme clicking on the rectangle shown on your screen.

Personally I really like the compact design of the Amiga 600 and the specs are a step up from its older brother, the Amiga 500.

First we need to get to the floppy drive disconnecting two cables and a few screws.

Now it’s time get the Gotek floppy emulator into place, pluggin’ in both cables, that came with the unit, and screws. Placing it isn’t as plug’n’play as I’ve thought that it would be. I had to make two extra holes on the Gotek so that the ones on the back of the Amiga could match. Also, and in order to get the flash drive well placed and connected to the Gotek unit, I had to break a small and thin piece of plastic. I can live with that!

Finally, about half an hour later, I was ready to test this baby! Everything seems to be connected and in place.

Next step is to download a firmware file hosted on this blog: cortexamigafloppydrive.wordpress.com

Just scroll down the main page and you’ll find a docx file that, when downloaded, you’ll have to change its extension to zip to be able to extract the SELECTOR.ADF file. The Gotek unit has already the firmware installed by the vendor on ebay from where I’ve purchased it, so, next step is to get a FAT32 formatted flash drive and copy the SELECTOR.ADF file along with some games also in ADF format.

Nowadays I just use the A600 to play games, so, I think that this solution is perfect for me and for everyone that just wants to use the Amiga as a kind of a games console. And it looks kind of awesome and futuristic, don’t you think?

Now, let’s get right into the good stuff! Games!!!

This is how we get to the main list of all files that we’ve copied to the flash drive. One advice that I can give is to rename those long files. The Gotek firmware doesn’t scroll long names. This is a problem if there’s various ADF files for one game. For example, Indiana Jones and The Fate of Atlantis the Graphic Adventure has 11 disks, 11 ADF files, I mean, and we need to shorten them up to be able to identify them and place them in the exact order in those virtual floppy drives that the Gotek emulates. So, in that particular case, we could simply rename the files to Indy Atlantis disk 1of 11 and so forth.

This game right here, Viage al Centro de la Tierra, from the Spanish developer Topo Soft, was one of my big addictions on my ZED X Spectrum back in the summer of 1989. I just love these exploration and adventure type of games.
Just before we launch another game, we need to check the Gotek’s display and place it in the DF0 position just by pressing one of the two buttons available. Then, simply reset the Amiga by pressing Control and the two Amiga keys simultaneously and we’ll get into the menu.

Now, time for a go on one of my favorite games ever, Batman the Movie.

Loading times are exactly the same. It’s just like using floppy disks, but without the hassle of changing them and completely error free.
This doesn't mean that I'll stop collecting physical Amiga games on those gorgeous big boxes. I simply want to preserve those on my shelves and avoid bad handling.

Shadow Warriors is one of the best beat-em-ups on the Amiga, an extremely well done arcade conversion.

And, who doesn’t know Shinobi? In late 80s these martial arts type of games were really popular, due to the also well received movies American Ninja, Bloodsport and Kickboxer.

Another great classic, Turrican 2. Amazing sound, amazing graphics.. what else could you ask from a videogame?

I’ve never watched the movie, but played a ton The Adams Family on the Amiga back when it was out! Such an entertaining game!

And what about Apidya? Have you played it? No? You should! It’s one of the greatest shoot’em’ups ever made and exclusive to the Amiga!

One great thing about retrogaming is that you can play games that, back then, when they were released, you’ve never had the chance to try. This is one of those examples: Ballistix! The first time I saw its cover was on a Computer & Video Games magazine, back in 1989, and I stood there, just looking at that amazing cover art. This was the first time that I’ve played it, and I enjoyed it a lot!.. I’ll certainly make a review in the future!


So, guys, what do you think of the Gotek floppy emulator? Is it worth it? Or do you prefer using floppies? Well, in my case, and as I said before, it’s great to have a flash drive filled with all my favorite Amiga games, spite continue to collect physical copies. I approve! Tell me what you think in the comments section bellow!


If you're into retro - or not so retro - stuff, please subscribe at http://www.youtube.com/user/ThePixelTHING and visit http://www.facebook.com/PixelThing & http://twitter.com/Pixel_THING


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