Reader JPH (who you are likely to recognize if you follow the comments here) runs the blog Ninja Game Den. He’s doing something really interesting: He’s retro-gaming titles he’s never encountered before. For example, he’s playing Deus Ex for the first time. Here’s an excerpt:
But most importantly, it means that the gameplay is no longer filler for the story. The gameplay is the story. The game features no cutscenes (besides the very beginning and the very end) and the only time you lose control of your character is during dialogue, which is pretty much necessary. All of the action occurs in-game, and virtually all of it is avoidable if you play the cards right. And people will treat you very differently depending on what you choose to do during the game. It forces you to think about the ramifications of your in-game actions, instead of just entering no-think mode once the cutscene ends.
I’ve been eager to read this sort of thing for a long time. How well do the classics really hold up? Would I like them if I played them for the first time today? It’s encouraging to see that it’s not all rose-colored glasses. Deus Ex really is special, and it holds up even now that the graphics have gone stale.
For another blast from the past, there’s his experience with the original Fallout. If you’ve played the game, then go read his take and come back.
Painful, wasn’t it? I know, you were probably going crazy like I was. He missed Shady Sands entirely! He’s picking on a 256 color game for lack of color variation! And the game is much more vibrant later!
But I think his criticisms are fair. And he didn’t even ding the game for the terrible interface, which I hated even in 1999. The only criticism I might object to is the one concerning color. Fallout does more with 256 colors than (say) Fallout 3 does with 16 million. (Thanks mostly to the latter’s green filter and frequent lack of contrast.) But the point is, the opening of Fallout is clunky. That tutorial is tedious. (And gets worse on subsequent play-throughs.) The first-time visit to the character creation screen is daunting. There is only one solution to the elevator shaft, and only one piece of rope in this part of the gameworld. The opening is both too free and too restrictive at the same time. You have the freedom to explore a bunch of useless empty map squares, but only one solution to an early game puzzle.
I wonder how many people got bored and quit at this point in 1999.
It’s interesting to see the classics through fresh eyes.