This is the second post. The first was about TI-99 games. This one is devoted to PC games. We played these somewhat less frequently (Dad’s IBM was not always available) but just as passionately. These are the ones I remember playing the most often.
Pretty sure I traveled just about everywhere in the Ultima V universe but never got anywhere close to beating it. I got the boats and the horse and the flying carpet, and even managed to get to Lord British’s castle but still no dice. After a while we just started messing around, like killing everyone in a village that happened to have no guards (though often you’d get arrested elsewhere). It was fun to explore but ultimately got frustrating when you couldn’t make any progress. I read a walk-through years later and learned that we’d skipped a crucial step: grinding until you reached some impossibly high experience level we’d never gotten close to.
Ultima V game play video (though the version I played didn’t have music)
I sucked at the original, text-based Zork. My sister was really into it, drawing maps and all that, but I was constantly getting eaten by a Grue. Return to Zork had graphics and a surprising number of celebrity cameos, and I played it endlessly. I eventually had to buy a walk-through guide to finish it, but I enjoyed it just the same. “Want some rye? Course ya do!”
We loved Battle Chess, and it was the first thing I thought of when Harry Potter played Wizard’s Chess. Mostly we tried to play in such a way to see all the different ways various pieces killed each other. I loved how the rooks turned into rock monsters, and how the king and queen smooched before he stabbed her in the back with a dagger.
You have a certain number of lemmings (little purple dudes with green hair) you have to get to safety, and a certain number of each kind of special one (like one that makes stairs and one that blocks the lemmings from passing and stuff like that), and sometimes a time limit. Oh man, I played this game like a fiend. I got pretty good at it, if I recall correctly, but it’s still a little traumatizing to see the little guys plummet to their death, splashing(!!) on the ground.
This was the only KQ game (at the time) with a female main character, and my friend and I played the hell out of it. She was a lot better at it than I was, getting way farther, so I liked to watch her play so I could see all the lands I’d never managed to get to. We loved the fairy tale/fantasy theme of it, and having a fairy with butterfly wings didn’t hurt any. Looking back, the graphics were actually pretty good and interestingly designed.
I’ve lumped these all together because I didn’t get far in any of them and graphically they were all pretty much interchangeable: King’s Quest III (dammit, Manannan!), Space Quest I (I never even got off the ship), Police Quest I and II, and Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards (which probably would have been more titillating at a higher resolution – mostly it was just silly). I liked playing them but not often because I always got stuck in the same place – not because I couldn’t figure out the puzzle, but because I didn’t know how to find the next puzzle to solve, so I ended up just wandering around until running into someone telling me I’d lost/died/whatever because I hadn’t done something I didn’t know how to do.
At some point I discovered the joys of shareware. On one disk we had two games: Secret Agent: The Hunt for Red Rock Rover, and Cosmo’s Cosmic Adventure. Secret Agent was a fun side-scroller puzzle game, where you had various obstacles to overcome and enemies with predictable and repetitive patterns of movement. Cosmo was more Mario-like, jumping on enemies and setting bombs and stuff like that. I played it so obsessively that I actually beat it several times. Come to think of it, it may be the only video game I’ve ever beaten in my entire life. Huh.
I take that back. I beat Castle of the Winds. This Windows 3.1 shareware game was so addictive that my sister and I ultimately convinced our parents to purchase the second part. It’s pretty simplistic: you’re a little icon running around villages and dungeons made of other icons and you kill things by walking into them. There are traps and monsters and treasures. This was my first encounter with the Enchanted Pack of Holding, though I know now that Bag of Holding is an old D&D term. I think the best part was when we were able to combine this game with an icon creator program, meaning our hero could look however we wanted. We did a few, but the one that sticks in my memory most was the Floating Radioactive Banana of Doom. (Long story; don’t ask.)
You all know Tetris and the only thing interesting about the version we played was the change in backgrounds each level. Faces…Tris was something else entirely. You had pieces of face (chin/mouth, nose, eyes, hair) and you tried to match them up. It was crazy-hard but we enjoyed all the weird faces we could make by mixing up the people.
There were others, of course, that I can’t recall now. A generic horse-racing game we’d get all riled up over, Dig-Dug (which I only played a couple of times), some weird fly game where the fly moved way faster than your cursor so it took more luck than skill to swat it…and surely many others. Mostly I recall the grind of the disk drive being a warning that something awful was loading on the next screen and you’d probably have to back out as fast as possible or else die immediately.
What PC games did you love back in the day?