When I look back at more youthful times, I realise that I played an huge amount of games as a child – perhaps more than I do now. This wasn’t exactly difficult, considering my platform of choice was the PlayStation, which had nearly 2.000 games to its name by the time production of the console ended. Many of them I adored; and to this day I have kept copies of my favorites. However, the crushing reality is that over time, my mind has become hazy, and there are several PS1 games that I completely forgot that I played – some I genuinely wish I hadn’t forgot, some I wish I had never remembered.
This article therefore is a brief summary of all those games that I played on the PlayStation that I can’t really be bothered to give a full review to…the long forgotten, the good, the bad, and the downright awful.
A BUG’S LIFE (1998) – TRAVELLER’S TALES
Based off the successful Pixar film of the same name, A Bug’s Life was just one in a long list of lazy film tie-ins that were produced for the PlayStation. My abiding memories of this game was that it was unnecessarily awkward; you attacked enemies using berries, but the stronger the enemy, the more powerful a berry you required – and as a seven year old I could not for the life of me work out where the hell I was meant to go. This means that I never actually completed the game, as I couldn’t find the required berries to beat the Grasshoppers on the final level. Still, it wasn’t a complete train wreck of a game – there was a level where Flik flies over the canyon, and I found that to be pretty cool I guess.
CASPER (1997) – ABSOLUTE ENTERTAINMENT
Another film tie-in; all I can remember of this game was that there was some kind of maze, and Casper had to pick up various objects to progress. And that there was a cheat so you could actually rise above the levels and simply drop down to collect items, meaning you could complete the game within an hour. It was a crap game.
DISNEY’S ACTION GAME FEATURING HERCULES (1997) – EUROCOM
Now, this was a gem of a game when I was young. It was an action-adventure game split into 2D side scrolling and two levels where you had to run into the screen, based on the fantastic 1997 animated film. What strikes me with this game was the production levels – all the voices from the film were present in the game, and the game even had extracts from the film to help advance the narrative. Also, the music was pretty catchy, and it wasn’t a bad looking game. It was also pretty damn hard as you progressed, especially the Titan Flight level, and I’m shocked I managed to beat this game when I did. In conclusion, it was a Disney game actually worth a purchase, and is available on the PSN store if you want to give it a blitz nowadays.
HEART OF DARKNESS (1998) – AMAZING STUDIO
This was a really strange one to play as a child. Heart Of Darkness was a cinematic 2D platformer in the same vein as the much loved Abe’s Odyssey, where you controlled a schoolchild called Andy who set of on an adventure to rescue his beloved dog from malevolent shadows in the Darklands. It is actually a landmark title, being the first game in history to have a soundtrack scored by an orchestra…although hilariously because of delays, it was not the first game released with an orchestral soundtrack.
Other things to note with this game; it was short, and it was incredibly difficult to complete at times. It is also an incredibly violent game considering the ‘playable for everyone’ rating it was granted by the ESRB – Andy at various points gets crushed, drowned, incinerated and eaten alive. It has become a somewhat cult classic (I like to think it provided some of the inspiration behind LIMBO) and to be honest I wouldn’t mind going back to give it another go to see if I can actually complete it.
MICKEY’S WILD ADVENTURE (1996) – TRAVELLER’S TALES
And this was a hard bastard to complete as well. Based on several of Mickey Mouse’s famous cartoons, including Steamboat Willie, Moose Hunters and The Prince And The Pauper, this was a platformer that posed me some real problems when I was young. Partly due to lack of skill, and mainly due to poor, unfair level design. Traveller’s Tales really didn’t have the best track record of Disney games when you come to think of it – they now exist in a much happier time as the people behind the LEGO game series (Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord Of The Rings etc.)
RUGRATS: THE SEARCH FOR REPTAR (1998) – n-SPACE
Yes, I admit I played this game. Can’t remember why the hell I would have done because I hate the Rugrats, but here’s the review in a nutshell – it’s f***ing atrocious.
SPIDERMAN (2000) – NEVERSOFT
Part of the problem with early superhero games was that you never felt like the character in question. Spiderman was one of the first titles that I can remember where it felt like you were the web-slinger himself. The plot was suitably ridiculous with Doc Ock looking to hold the city to ransom by filling the air with poison gas, and along the way Spidey had to beat the living tar out of classic villains including Venom and Mysterio.
More importantly, the gameplay was pretty solid. You swung through the 3D world, and used various web based attacks, including cocoons and super-powered web fists to stop the evil goons. There was a good mix of combat, time trials and puzzles to get involved with, and a amusing selection of alternate costumes and cheats to discover. My personal favourite feature was the inclusion of a ‘What If?’ mode, which amongst other things saw JJ Jameson and Scorpion play a game of Marco Polo and changed nuclear reactor columns into giant bananas. Good stuff all round…
SPIDERMAN 2: ENTER ELECTRO (2001) – VICARIOUS VISIONS
…But the sequel failed to keep up to expectations. I don’t know if a change of studio or a short deadline of less than a year affected things, but this game feels really shoddy compared to the first game. Theoretically, nothing changed gameplay wise, but there was little effort to mix things up a bit and so it feels like a rehash of of game less than twelve months old. The plot was also pretty boring with a less likeable cast of characters. Skip this one and play Spiderman 2 on the PS2 instead – it’s much better.
SUPER BUB CONTEST (1999) – ALEX HERBERT
I’m guilty of using hyperbole quite often, but in this case it’s justified – this game was really quite excellent.
Developed independently using Net Yaroze software (an official development kit for the console), Super Bub is essentially a rip off of Bubble Bobble & Bust A Move, where up to two players face off against each other. The aim of the game is to match bubbles of the same colour in a grid above your character, using the occasional ‘swirly ball’ to set off a chain reaction. Any bubbles you remove from your grid then appear a few turns later in your opponents grid, and if their screen fills up you win. It’s a face paced game requiring advanced thought and clever tactics, with catchy background music and charming graphics.
Originally it came included on the Official PlayStation Magazine Demo 43 (and due to high popularity was put on several later demo discs which I still own), but since these disc’s are now relatively rare it is more than likely that only a small handful of people will recall the joys of this game, which is a great shame.
I’m not sure what Mr Herbert is doing these days, but if he’s reading this then a version for modern audiences would be lovely, thanks.
THE ITALIAN JOB (2001) – PIXELOGIC
The original Italian Job film is a classic, and so it would seem that a game-tie in would be solid gold. Sadly, it wasn’t. The game does an impressive early job of trying to recreate 1960’s London and Turin, but it came at a cost to the framerate which lags along as you thread your vehicles (including the Mini Coopers and the bus from the movie) through lines of traffic which when you crash into them are seemingly made out of concrete. Driving was also hilariously inconsistent, letting you take ninety-degree corners at well over 100mph with little fuss
By far the best part of this game was ‘The Getaway‘ mission, which was a almost shot-for-shot recreation of the chase at the end of the film – you drove your Mini through shopping centers, over stadiums, through rivers and ending by barreling through the sewers in a 6 minute thrill ride set to jaunty harmonica music and a poor Micheal Caine impersonator. The thing is though, I could play the entire mission on a demo disc; why I paid a tenner for the rest of the game I do not know.
TONY HAWK’S PRO SKATER 4 (2001) – VICARIOUS VISIONS
Ah, the Pro Skater series – cashing in on the rise of extreme sports in the media and delivering some excellent games to boot. Pro Skater 2 for example is widely regarded as one of the best sporting titles available on the PlayStation, while the 3rd game introduced reverts into manuals allowing for some crazy combo scores.
This was actually the last game I bought for my PlayStation before moving onto the 6th generation, and it really shows how games can get lost in the gap between a new console releasing and an old one dying. Pro Skater 4 is far from a bad game, being just as addictive as its predecessors with a snarly skateboarding soundtrack (you know the type of music, The Offspring et al) and allowing more flexibility with challenges dotted around the levels that you could complete when you wanted. You get the feeling that all the development went into the PS2/Gamecube/Xbox versions and then this was releasing as an afterthought though – it’s ugly as hell with poor textures and glitches all over the place. Best avoided if you ask me.
TOTAL SOCCER (1999) – CHARLES CHAPMAN
This, along with the aforementioned Super Bub, were for me the epitome of Net Yaroze games (honorable mentions to Blitter Boy, Rocks & Gems and Terra Incognita, but I never finished those games). Converted in just eight weeks, Total Soccer is essentially a Sensible Soccer clone, right down to the incorrect team names (Minchester United vs. Bircalona anyone?). All you need to control the game is the d-pad and the X button, which controls passing, tackling and shooting – simplicity itself. You can also press the Circle button at any point for an instant replay.
What made this game so fun is that you could add ludicrous amounts of swerve and spin to your shots, resulting in some truly outstanding goals. The AI were also mercilessly difficult at times, meaning games would regularly end up with a scoreline of 6-5. There was also a surprising amount of depth for a game of this type, with full seasons and training modes to go through. It is arcade football at its most pure origins, and has what FIFA and PES seem to have misplaced in their search for increased realism – endless enjoyability.
WWF SMACKDOWN! (2000) & WWF SMACKDOWN! KNOW YOUR ROLE (2001) – THQ
Wrestling games before the turn of the millennium were awkward to control and as a result, not very fun to play. The two Smackdown! games for the PlayStation and No Mercy on the N64 revolutionized the playing field, making them accessible for anyone to beat the living tar out of others. Grapples and punches were consigned to single buttons, as were finishing maneuvers which could be performed after building up enough momentum. With several other willing combatants, the Smackdown! games were amongst the best multi-player experiences one could have on the PlayStation
Know Your Role was for a long time the best wrestling game money could buy – with the inclusion of Hell In A Cell & Ladder matches, a season mode and lots of stuff to unlock, it was the quintessential experience for the ‘Attitude Era’…providing you didn’t mind obnoxiously long loading screens every five seconds. Even today they remain a hoot to play.
And there we are – a quick trip through memory lane, and just a small selection of the titles available for the PlayStation. Got any long forgotten favourites of your own? Or do you have the soundtrack for Super Bub Contest? If you do, let me know in the comments section below!