The ‘Hall of Fame’ is a semi-regular column in which our band of merry writers are allowed to induct any set of games, levels, or any other facet of videogaming on which they choose to focus. These aren’t top five articles, there is no hierarchical order; simply our chance to shine a bright light on the things that made us pick up the joypad or mouse in the first place, and those that continue to do so to this day.
Everybody enraptured with our pastime has that moment. That one brief snapshot in time that drags them kicking and screaming into a lifelong obsession to recapture the feelings they just experienced. For a lot of you it will have been Mario bounding across a colourful NES-powered World 1-1, for others it might have been an initially reluctant stab at college multiplayer in Goldeneye. For the sickeningly young, it may even be that first nudge of the analogue stick to send a Warthog barrelling off a cliff into a well-placed mound of grenades, flexing the Halo physics system with wide-eyed wonder.
This list, then, represents five videogames that had the power to mesmerise and spark the imagination of my younger years in a way that others simply couldn’t muster. And we begin with…
Rock Star ate my Hamster – Amstrad 6128 – Codemasters
When the planets aligned between burgeoning teenage musical interest and obsession with videogames, Codemasters’ parody of the Rock music industry became the perfect conduit between both worlds. The fact that it remains largely without peer to this day is somewhat surprising, but ensures that an annual playthrough is still uniquely engaging. I’d kill for a modern-day equivalent on the likes of PSN or XBLA.
Tasked with picking up to four band members from a roster of star parodies to form a a super-group, Rock Star played out as a simple but engaging tactical mix of choosing equipment, booking practice time, playing gigs, releasing singles and releasing albums – all the while attempting to manage the PR and personality disorders of your chosen egotists. The mission was to be the most successful band in terms of sales and hit records over a calendar year, a task not helped by the self-destructive nature of most of the protagonists.
And it was hard; so, so hard. In fact, I’ve never actually managed to reach the end of the game in over fifteen years of trying. It’s the eternal challenge, but so enjoyable I rarely want it to end.
Matchday II – Amstrad 6128 – Ocean
Jon Ritman’s Amstrad footy classic is well known amongst sports game aficionados, and with good reason.
This was the first time I can recall being enthralled by a physics system and the emergent gameplay that resulted. Sure, the fabled ‘diamond deflection system’ is something that even a basic mobile phone game can beat these days, but offering up ball movement that seemed independent of the players was a technological breakthrough at the time and remains a key facet of believable football videogames to this very day.
There was something tangible and satisfying about manipulating the ball rather than watching canned animations decide the scoreline, and multiplayer became enthralling as a result. There were bugs – the ball could bounce indefinitely on a players head given the right circumstances – but once you’ve factored in the ability to hit shots of varying power, mid-air volleys, crosses, headers and backheels, Matchday II took its rightful place at the top of the football pile for many years to come.
Motorcross Maniacs – Gameboy – Konami
You may recognise this game as Trials HD: The Early Years. Alright… Kikstart was better, but I couldn’t carry a Commodore 64 in my pocket now could I?
Motorcross Maniacs had that magical quality that enthralled an entire school year, much to the chagrin of those of us that had to borrow a copy. Controls were simple, you had one button to accelerate, another to deploy collectable nitros, and the ability to rotate your bike with the directional pad. Stages ran left to right and were multi-tiered and acrobatic, lending themselves well to exploration and time trial – a key factor in ensuring everybody returned to it for months.
Anybody want to swap Navy Seals? I thought not. Bastards.
NHL ’95 – Sega MegaDrive – EA Sports
After a rough tally in my head, I believe I’ve purchased NHL ’95 a total of six times since launch, and if it showed up on PSN or XBLA tomorrow I’d gladly do it again.
It is, quite simply, the finest multiplayer sports game ever created. To this day it still just feels right, no matter what technological improvements have brought us in the interim. Gliding across the ice, slamming into an opposition player and splitting their head open, smashing the glass behind the goal, lobbing the puck into an empty net from your own goal line, trapping the puck between the crossbar and the goaltender… the secret was simplicity of control, wrapped around a gameplay engine that provided just enough leeway for unforseen events to occur with regularity.
If NHLPA ’93 heralded a first love of the series, NHL ’95 cemented its place in my memory forever, with the customary series of tweaks and upgrades for which EA Sports has since plied its entire trade upon.
Quake – PC – id Software
So why choose Quake over Doom or Duke Nukem 3D? Simple… 3DFX.
I can remember being distinctly disappointed by Quake on release. The muddy palette, the been-there done-that gameplay, hell even the Doom II multiplayer seemed more entertaining during down-time in the A-level computing labs. However, whilst wandering past a local computer store in the summer of 1997 I remember catching a glimpse of the same game time running on a high-end PC, but something was different… something that put a sequence of events into action that my finances have never quite recovered from.
The very first accelerated card from 3DFX, the Voodoo, was on display. The crisp 640×480 resolution, increased texture detail and massively expanded colour palette left an indelible mark on that crowd of onlookers. I can remember chatting to everybody around me at the time, strangers brought to a complete standstill over a common interest. It felt like we’d glimpsed the future, and all I knew was that I was desperate to have a piece of it.
Technological breakthrough will always have a place at the heart of videogame progression, and for that reason alone I can’t help but remember that moment of bewitchment with fondness. After all, that’s why we all get into this in the first place, isn’t it?