Chris Pressey's Favourite Other Computer Games

Please forgive the awkward title. This is a list of computer games, that are neither video games nor text adventure games, that I've played and enjoyed.

  1. Civilization II (Conquest, Windows, mouse and keyboard)

    I like that it's not just a war game; you feel like you're a steward of the civilization you've fostered. It's a bit like a sim game in that respect. Educational, too; it encourages you build a mental model of how history works, based on technological and social advances. An oversimplified model, to be sure, but something is better than nothing. I mean, did I ever really think about how sewer systems and refrigeration changed life as we know it before playing this game? Probably not.

  2. Dungeon Master (Role-playing, Amiga 500, mouse and keyboard)

    A surprisingly intricate dungeon exploration game from the era of personal computers that didn't need internal fans. In first-person perspective, and in real time, a party of four adventurers hack and slash their way past various nasties, eating their remains, throwing switches, throwing pieces of clothing, triggering traps, casting spells, and watching the world fade to black around them as their last torch is consumed.

  3. The Incredible Machine 2 (Puzzle, MS-DOS, mouse)

    A classic. I like how it manages to unify, to an extent, using the "construction set" to build your own levels, and playing the level (since playing a level essentially means to complete its construction satisfactorily.) I also like how it naturally accomodates multiple solutions.

    People sometimes tell me how RUBE reminds them of this game.

    Every so often, in a television commercial or similar, I hear the exact same squeaking sound that the trapdoor made in this game, and I have a flashback to it. (That sound sample must be in the public domain or something.)

  4. Adventure Construction Set (Role-playing, Commodore 64, joystick and one button)

    I'm a sucker for "construction sets" (games that come with a level editor), and a sucker for adventure games, so this would seem a natural fit. It's actually a construction set for role-playing games, though, although suited for ones containing some measure of puzzle-solving. The "language" in which the game is described is somewhat interesting; individual objects can have effects associated with them (such as summon monster, raise health, display a message, etc.,) and they can be stacked in a single square; the square can be told to trigger all the objects when the player walks over it, or bumps into it.

  5. Zelazny Angband (Roguelike, POSIX, keyboard)

    I'm not at all a fan of Roger Zelazny's stuff, but this is one of the best-hacked Angband's out there, and has a really good gameplay balance.

  6. Alphaman (Roguelike, MS-DOS, keyboard)

    A post-apocalyptic roguelike which is alternately realistic (I'm thinking particularly of the weather patterns) and silly (you can be attacked by monsters called the Bush and the Quayle... and let's not forget about the Venetian Blind!)

    One of the best mutant powers to have is Mechanical Genius, which lets you take apart gadgets (like microwave ovens) and create new and interesting gadgets.

    I had thought the name was an obvious play on "The Omega Man", given the post-apocalyptic nature of the game, but having just re-read the manual, the author claims it was inspired by the tabletop RPG's "Metamorphosis Alpha" (which was itself inspired by the novel "Non-Stop") and "Gamma World" (which was inspired by various post-apocalyptic novels and movies from the 1950's to 70's, which might well include "I am Legend" and "The Omega Man".) Of course, he doesn't say that the choice to combine "Alpha" with "man" came solely from Metamorphosis Alpha, and, while "Omega" refers to "last", "Alpha" and "Gamma" likely refer to the role of radiation, and well I mean it's all a bit of a Greek alphabet soup anyway isn't it.

  7. Dungeon Keeper II (Conquest, Windows, mouse and keyboard)

    It deserves mention if for no other reason than you get to carve your own dungeon out of the rock as part of the game.

  8. King's Quest V (Puzzle, MS-DOS, mouse)

    Alexander takes a mint.

    This game is fairly well written, which is in stark contrast to the other games in the King's Quest series, which are simply painful.

    If, however, you like things that are so bad that they are absurdly bad (and considering what website you're visiting, that's not unlikely,) King's Quest IV has moments of morbidity that may make it worthwhile: Graham's scream as he falls off the icy cliffs, and the narrator's jesting about "dying for a drink." But don't even try playing the endgame without a walkthrough.

  9. Ultima VII Part 2 (Role-playing, MS-DOS, mouse)

    I wasn't fortunate enough to play this until 2003. This was, of course, long after the hardware that it made so many demands on was obsolete, and could only be emulated awkwardly — either by Exult, which (when I tried it) was kind of hard to set up, or by switching between real mode and protected mode thousands of times a second, which is just about as happy as it sounds.

See Also