With the Power Rangers and Beauty and the Beast raking it in at the box office, The Hardy Boyz chucking ladders around the wrestling ring, and Brits squabbling over blue passports…who would deny gaming the opportunity to take a breather and retreat into itself and seek solace in titles we enjoyed in simpler times?
With that in mind, here are ten forgotten titles that are just crying out for a reboot…
First released in 1998, the original arcade cabinet gave players the chance to spend around ten minutes in the company of Tony Gibson, a police officer in charge of something called the ‘chase special investigation department’, which sounds very much like a police department trying to justify a budget surplus.
Along with your partner Raymond Broady (a way more sexy name, let’s face it) you’re given the job of burning up vast lengths of US highway, pursuing and eventually ramming some proper naughty sods off the road.
Ralph, the Idaho slasher, thinks he’s untouchable in his White Lotus Esprit? Hope you like being rammed from behind, sir. The LA kidnapper thinks his kidnappees are safe in the miniscule boot of his Ferrari 288 GTO? Think again, buddy. They’re getting proper squished with my squad car.
Five different perps in five different sports cars, leathering it across desert, through tunnels and over wasteland, culminating in a breathless automotive battle with the final baddie, an Eastern Bloc spy – though why said spy thought a red Porsche 928 was an inconspicuous choice, we don’t know – the exciting part for those of us playing on home consoles, Spectrums and Amstrads was the use of digitised speech. The distorted, almost incomprehensible terse squawk of ‘let’s go, Mr. driver’ still gets the blood pumping to this very day. ‘Let’s go, Tony Gibson’ might not have had the same effect.
An open-world city-based brawler and the first title developed by the now defunct Mucky Foot for the Dreamcast and PC, Urban Chaos came out a full year before Grand Theft Auto 3, a game which would go on to define the genre. The lead, a hard-nosed African-American called D’arci Stern. She was authoritative, she could batter criminals with wanton, wilful abandon, but also deftly coax suicidal polygons from the ledges of tall buildings. Though a sassy, Pam Grier-esque caricature at times, there still hasn’t been a female video game lead that’s come close to holding a candle to that stocky bovver-booted heroine. And that’s a damn shame.
Perhaps the most unlovable system-shifter ever conceived, Zool (working title – ‘Pootz’ for crying out loud) was a ninja-ant thing designed to give the Commodore Amiga a figurehead that might rival Sonic and Mario.
Instead what we got was a designed-by-commitee cynical air-guitar performing ‘cool dude’ who would pootzle around game worlds covered in Chupa Chups. Back in the days before shader technology and 3d polygons, graphics pervs would have to get their cheapies waxing lyrical about the smoothness of screen switching and parallax scrolling. Maybe that’s what the devs spent the Chupa Chups money on. Either way, don’t we all need a sai-weilding ninja ant in our lives? Hello?
Gregory Loses His Clock
Back in the days when one man could bash away in assembly language over a matter of a fortnight and come up with a clunky, chunky platformer about a poor chap who’s had his alarm clock stolen by a horrid ghost, Gregory Loses His Clock was stupid in all the best ways. That was the weird thing about the 8-bit era in Britain, games were almost encouraged to be a little subversive, a little satirical, and they’d habitually be set within the confines of one house.
Pyjamarama, How To Be A Complete Bastard and Jet Set Willy – it was as if Thatcher was stealing our scope as well as our school milk.
So, then – who wouldn’t want to leg it around a terraced two-up two-down trying to find clock pieces before you’re stuck in a dream world forever?
Another bizarre British snack food-ant themed game, Pushover was a neat domino-rally puzzler where a garden pest is tasked with rescuing bags of quavers for the popular crisp mascot, Colin Curly (who really should have access to more than just one packet.) Voiced in the TV ads by comedian Lenny Henry, Colin would later go on to feature in a sequel of sorts, 1993’s One Step Beyond. What became of our termite hero, we may never know – only a well fleshed-out reboot can answer this question.
Trivia: one of the members of the Hello Games dev team is a friend of a friend of your writer, and after wondering why nobody had seen fit to steal the conceit of this truly excellent game for a mobile title, I dropped him a Facebook message with a proposal. The very next day, Hello Games unveiled the very first trailer for No Man’s Sky. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but they totally could have bashed out a potato-starch themed puzzle game in under a year, and perhaps wouldn’t have received quite so many death threats. They probably would have been considerably poorer to boot, and isn’t that the lot of the developer?
Moonstone: A Hard Day’s Knight
A game that was perhaps bloodier than it was actually good, Moonstone was a heavily-pirated smash, released in 1991. Those three disks truly were valuable schoolyard contraband.. Developed and published by Mindscape, this hack ‘n’ slasher was perhaps the goriest experiences ever created – a turn-based action brawler that allowed up to four players to suit up and deck a load of mythical creatures in a wood.
The object of the game was to gather four keys – either by finding them or taking them from one of the other three knights, to access something called the ‘valley of the gods’ and return the titular moonstone to Stonehenge. That was the rather hackneyed plot, anyway – the only reason anyone played it though was to watch the great crimson arcs of guttage spraying from the chest cavity of a werebeast as you systematically swung your broadsword up and over your shoulder like a cricketer at the world’s most unpalatable test match. Imagine the life Nvidia’s hair and fur tech could breathe into foulness such as this, the blood collecting on follicles, shining in the moonlight. Gripping stuff.
Around the turn of the century most parochial nightclubs every Saturday would be running a god-awful seventies night, Leo Sayer was playing polytechnics the length and breadth of the country and no doubt picking out designs for a new kitchen with the proceeds. Funk and disco and capacious trouser legs were very much back in vogue, for better or worse.
In 1997, Activision put out a driving game where in some alternate timeline the Yom Kippur war and ensuing US oil crisis never ended, and much of the US southwest had become an unforgiving wasteland, where vigilantes and bandits would do battle over limited fuel reserves. With a kick-ass funk soundtrack, Groove champion, his partner Taurus and their mechanic skeeter glided over mile upon mile of desert road, blasting the merry snot out of mad-max style muscle cars and their drivers. Stylish as hell, and long due a comeback!
Known in Japan as the pleasing-to-utter ‘Juju Densetsu’, Toki was a 1989 run and gunner starring an enchanted ape who must take out wave upon wave of jungle monsters using energy balls fired from his mouth. You know, like they do in the wild. He wasn’t always an ape – enchanted or otherwise – he was turned into one by an evil wizard. Honestly, the union of evil wizards really need to hire a good PR; their stock has never been very high.
Speaking of stocks, Apes are massively under represented in gaming, and apart from Winston from Overwatch and that massive skyscraper-twatting chimp from that 80s Rampage arcade game, they’re rarely seen. More apes, please. Gibbons if possible.
A classy, classic hide em’ up from 1990, this game at first did seem a little reminiscent of 1984’s Spv vs Spy in that if you took your eyes off the screen for a second you would often spend a good ten seconds trying to figure out which character on which half of the screen was yours.
Unlike Spy vs Spy however, it was a straightforward platformer with our two titular brothers having a very simple job to do – nicking as much loot as possible from various buildings and escaping via the roof. Basically The Blues Brothers in robot form – and on the home Sega Mega Drive version, they would shout ‘shit’ if they got hit by the PoPo. Got a lot of time for that sort of caper.
A point and click adventure that used real digitised film footage in a chilling horror all about a man whose head is fertilised with an alien embryo. An embryo, which, at one point he tries to destroy with a couple of aspirin. We’ve all had hangovers like that.
Released in the early ’90s – a time when a programmer with a massive John Oates ‘tache and donkey jacket could effectively strongarm investors into spaffing thousands on getting Alien artist H.R. Giger to do the backgrounds for his game, then insisting on giving himself the lead role. There totally should be more of this sort of unprofessionalism in gaming.