Slipstream 5000 (The Software Refinery, Ltd., 1995)
A futuristic racing game, Slipstream 5000 changes the standard racing formula by having you race not along a track, but in assorted planes around a circuit. It’s colourful and silly - your opponents all fit stereotypes and don’t offer too much depth - but the racing is deadly serious, and the addition of weapons, powerups, and the ability to not only turn but ascend means there’s plenty to concentrate on. It’s also very well balanced - it gets challenging, but never really seems unfair. A great game, especially once you unlock some of the later, more complex circuits.
Axia (Dungeon Dwellers Design, 1998)
While it may look like a standard Asteroids clone at first, Axia is an entirely different experience. It has a storyline, told in occasional cutscenes, it has a store which allows you to purchase upgrades every 5 levels, boss levels, an on-screen radar, the ability to save your progress and, quite uniquely, the screen rotates around your ship, rather than staying static while your ship rotates. Here you can see an example of this in action - it’s a little disconcerting at first, but once you’re used to it, makes for a very intense experience.
Microsoft Flight Simulator 5.1 (Microsoft Corporation, 1993)
I love MS Flight Simulator, and this is a great version of it. It may be blocky by today’s standards, but the level of detail is still very impressive and it’s still excellent to play. Here you can see me landing my first flight in ages at night in Chicago in the standard Cessna. You can see how out of practice I am - it’s a rough, sloppy landing. That’s the beauty of Flight Simulator, though - you can learn at your own pace, and in your own time. A lovely game.
Dark Legions (Silicon Knights, Inc., 1994)
Dark Legions is a very cool cross between chess and a strategy game, with a big range of units and things to build your army from. Strategies involve picking fights wisely, being good at one on one combat (which you control directly via keyboard) and luring your enemies into various traps. One of my favourites is the void trap, which you can see in action here. A seemingly innocent land tile suddenly sucks our orb bearer into the void, where they’re instantly consumed - an instant game over for us. Great animations, cool art, and fun tactics like this make Dark Legions a fantastic game. Totally recommended.
Doom (id Software, Inc., 1993)
Doom is fast - super fast. You can blaze through some levels in a matter of seconds when you know the routes, you can dodge most projectiles with ease and you can even keep up with the rockets you fire from your rocket launcher on foot. Here’s a clear demonstration of this in action.
King’s Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow (Sierra On-Line, Inc., 1992)
Following on from King’s Quest V, this game is an improvement in every way. The same great visual style, but now without the sunburned skin tones, better puzzles, a more cohesive world to explore, and a much more enjoyable maze. King’s Quest 6 is still a fairly simplistic tale which calls on a mashup of various fairytale lores and a princes and maidens style world, but it works better here than in KQV. The fact that there’s no damn talking owl this time seals the deal. Beware the walking deads, save early and often, and you’re bound to have a great time exploring this one.
Another World (Delphine Software International, 1991)
There are two things I especially love about Eric Chahi’s 1991 classic. The first is how dynamic the gameplay is - the rules are ever changing, and you need to learn and discover in order to make any progress, and the second is the world itself - you get a real impression that there’s a whole new culture and place here, an advanced people with their own set of traditions and customs and an alien environment, rather that just simple enemies you have to overcome and platforms to jump on. Both of these elements enhance the feeling of being in a strange place and desperate to survive. This scene near the very end of the game really captures the feels of being in an alien place for me - showing our protagonist learning how to use devices, madly pressing unfamiliar buttons in a tense situation, surrounded by danger, and showcases several aspects of these people’s culture without any words and with just a few colours. It’s hard to overstate how powerful scenes like this feel compared to Another World’s contemporaries - Chahi’s vision was magnificent and remains inspiring to this day.
Sam & Max Hit the Road (LucasArts Entertainment Company LLC, 1993)
Sam & Max is a great game - great writing and music, and had a team of fantastic artists and animators that made it one of the most beautiful adventure games around. My favourite element is the animations - comical and ridiculous, but still fitting in perfectly with the game’s tone. This scene, where Sam gets his hands on the key to Conroy Bumpus’ security system is one of my favourites in the game.
MadSpace (Maddox Games, 1997)
There’s plenty of weird, cool stuff to marvel at in MadSpace, but easily one of the coolest is the non-euclidean geometry present. What does that mean? Well, you can’t be quite sure how a level is laid out. Watch the clip for a cool example of this.
Alien Incident (Housemarque Ltd., 1996)
Alien Incident is an odd little thing. The story and writing is quite underwhelming, the gameplay is rarely inspired and the graphics are a strange blend of different methods and yet, somehow I can’t help but like it. The music and animation are great, the presence of a maze section may annoy some but is hardly a major obstacle and, most importantly, it doesn’t outstay its welcome. You’ll get through the puzzles without an issue, you’ll groan far more than you laugh at the “jokes” and you’ll probably wish the graphics could decide which style they want to be, but it’s still a cute little game, and worth checking out if you’re looking for another DOS adventure game.