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The screenshot that you see above is a capture from what I believe to be the greatest game ever - Dungeon Master.
Back in 1989, I’d not long since had a motorbike accident. I’d been on crutches with my leg in plaster for about six months, nursing a broken fibia/tibia. My insurers, finding me not liable for the accident, paid me an interim damages claim. Having no fear at that age, thoughts turned to getting back on a new bike and riding again.My mother, however, had other ideas and was keen to discourage me from getting back on the seat and having a repeat incident (or worse). Looking over the shoulders of my peers, I bowed to pressure and spent some of the money on an Atari ST, a more serious computer than the rubber wonder I’d been using before.
I remember a couple of my friends having Dungeon Master. It was the game that sold me the entire computer. Historically, it seems I wasn’t alone. There are reports that over half of people who had an Atari ST bought it. It’s no surprise. It rocked - and it still does.
The game has a simple premise - pick four characters and travel through a dungeon, killing stuff, using magic, exploring, pushing buttons, developing your characters and solving puzzles. Despite it’s simplicity, I still remember how amazingly immersive the game was. I used to make a habit of playing at night with the lights off - it added to the atmosphere. Some levels were exceedingly tough. I remember that on sight of a purple worm, I would “run” like hell down corridors and cast fireball spells from a distance. I remember the comical shrieking of the screamers - and how tough it was to get your character resurrected should one die. Carrying their bones back to the altar on level one to resurrect them was not a fun task.
At the time, I don’t think anyone realised how influential the game would be. There are so many elements that have appeared in similar games that followed - and the game is still fun to play now. I challenge you to find as much fun that fits on a single floppy disk.
Emulation is a wonderful thing. I’ve recently downloaded NoSTalgia for my Mac and have got back into playing the game again, and I suspect that once I’ve completed it (a fair task in itself), I’ll the continue on to play it’s sequel, Chaos Strikes Back.
I’m probably going to sound like an old man when I say it (and you would expect nothing less, I imagine), but a great deal of modern games seem to focus far too much upon graphical realism at the expense of good gameplay. I’ve actually got a couple of gaming devices, but I’ve pretty much stopped using them in favour of retro gems such as this. Maybe I’m getting old, but when I play a game I want it to look like a game, not some version of augmented reality. It’s probably why I enjoy playing Angry Birds so much on my iPhone. Simple works best.
This probably says an awful lot about me - I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. In the meantime, I’ve got to deal with four blue trolls that would like to club me over the head. And I still have my Atari ST now. Twenty years on, it still works.