Fifteen Recommended Steam Games

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So as someone that isn’t that keen on modern games, Steam is a platform that I have to pick and choose good games for.  It’s sad that Steam doesn’t really have nearly as many classic games as I wish it did; GOG.com has quite a few more, but there is no way to purchase anything from GOG without a credit card, which I don’t use; meanwhile I can buy cards with cash at retail stores for Steam with no issues.  Advantage: Steam.

But Steam does have some very good old games on its store, and here’s a list of what I recommend (in no particular order).  I realize that I have talked about many of these games in the past on this site, but hey, it’s time to talk about them again.

  • X-Com: UFO Defense
    The precursor to the modern X-Com games that, to me, don’t quite have the complexity and gameplay of this one.  There is even a modern engine port called OpenXCom that addresses some of the small issues of the original game engine and is highly recommended.
  • Wolfenstein 3D
    One of the original first person shooters, Wolfenstein 3D might not have the near-flawless execution of its successor Doom, but it’s a hell of a ride and a fun time.  There are modern sourceports of this game as well, and I highly recommend you take advantage of them.
  • Sonic CD
    A sadly underappreciated classic Sonic game, this one has Sonic running through time itself to once again stop Eggman from doing whatever evilness he does.  While this is a modern engine adaptation of the original game, it is extremely faithful to the original game minus a few odd movement glitches here and there, but definitly worth picking up.  Also, the USA soundtrack is better.  Don’t argue, you know it’s true.  /s
  • Quake
    What can you say about one of the greatest shooters of all time?  Well, besides the fact that id derailed the brilliant first game by making it into a boring techno-shooter with the second game.  At least it had one final great gasp with Arena before 4 ruined it again and id decided to mess with Arena’s perfection.
  • Heretic / HeXen
    Yeah, more first person shooters, but these are special.  Take the minimal yet effective Doom engine and put it in a magical world full of crazy magical weapons and insane enemies mixed with superb level design, and you have two games that nearly rival Doom.  Nearly.
  • Archon Classic
    It’s chess but with a combat motif — but if you’re thinking Battle Chess where you just get pre-determined animations for capturing, you’re way off.  You get to control your piece as it actually goes into combat against the other piece, with the victor gaining the square instead of just the captor as in chess.  It’s a brilliant game I originally played on the Commodore 64, and this version is a very good adaptation.
  • Wizardry 6: Bane of the Cosmic Forge
    If there is one thing Steam needs more of, it’s classic RPGs.  Modern computer RPGs seem to take their cue from Japanese RPGs as they are more story-heavy and linear instead of letting a character or group of characters loose wherever they want to go in a world ready to kill him or them at every turn.  Wizardry 7 and 8 are also on Steam, but honestly, I feel that 6 was the pinnacle of the series, and if you play only one, make this one it.
  • Sid Meier’s Pirates! Gold Plus (Classic)
    Honestly, anything from the Classic series of Sid Meier’s game is worth getting (check out Colonization and Covert Action), but come on — Pirates is absolutely iconic and has very addicting gameplay that will keep you playing longer than you might have wanted.
  • Sid Meier’s Civilization III Complete
    And speaking of Sid Meier, it wouldn’t be proper to list at least one of his Civilization games on its own.  Honestly, any of the Civilization games (including Beyond Earth) are worth getting and playing, but my personal favorite of the ones available on Steam is the third game, which seems to be more straightforward and satisfying than the others, though if Civilization II were an option on Steam, I would have opted for that one…
  • Master of Orion II
    Speaking of games that will have you losing sleep (and mealtimes, and work/school, and your social life…), Master of Orion is one of those “just a little more” games that will suddenly make you wonder how you have been playing for ten hours.  While the first game is great as well, MOO2 perfected the gameplay and is my recommended choice.
  • Commander Keen
    The PC platformer game of choice, Commander Keen from the same company that would go on to unleash Doom on the world is an immensely satisfying and fun experience.
  • Atari Vault
    Seriously, how can you not own this huge collection of Atari 2600 and Atari arcade games?  It will make you respect the Atari 2600 era a bit more, at least.
  • Bionic Commando: Rearmed
    As a near-perfect modern treatment of the NES classic Bionic Commando, there’s no reason to miss this one.  You may think that the limiting movement and controls in this game is a negative, but playing it long enough will hopefully convince you that it is for the best.
  • Unreal Gold
    As the last gasp of the old style of FPS that aren’t painfully story-based and has several exploration-focused levels, Unreal is absolutely brilliant.  You can probably ignore the included Return to Na Pali, though.  And please, for goodness sake, don’t even try Unreal 2.  Just pretend it didn’t exist.
  • And finally: Crysis…
    just kidding.
  • DOOM
    Bet you saw that coming a mile away.  The entire classic Doom collection is an essential part of everyone’s Steam collection, and the new “Doom” and Doom 3 just doesn’t measure up to the near-perfection — oh, who am I kidding, the absolute perfection — of the original games.  Grab a sourceport like zdoom and kill some demons today.

And just so I get this in there: do not purchase Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour.  While I would love to recommend that you get and play Duke Nukem 3d, this terrible cashgrab version by Duke’s new owners pales in comparison to the original version that was on Steam that included several extra episodes, a better overall experience, and was less expensive than this obvious attempt at grabbing as much money for a bare amount of poor extra content over the core game.  Demand that the Megaton Edition be brought back to Steam and purchase that.  (Fortunately, I purchased Megaton Edition when it was available, and still have access to that version because of that, but there is no way to get that version any more, which is terrible and a serious blow to anyone wanting the game that didn’t already own it.)

Review of PAC-MAN 256

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PAC-MAN 256 is a game available on Steam for Windows, Mac, and GNU (Linux/SteamOS) (also on mobile, but those have pay-to-win elements and I feel aren’t worth mentioning) released in 2016 by BANDAI NAMCO and developed by Hipster Whale, 3 Sprockets, and BANDAI NAMCO.  It is an endless runner game inspired by the classic Pac-Man game.

And, you know, it’s not bad at all, for one of those new games.

You start out in the middle of a randomly generated Pac-Man maze seen at a slightly right-skewed perspective, moving upward through an endless random maze full of dots, ghosts (your enemies that will end your run), power pellets (that let you temporarily turn the tables on the ghosts and eat them for points), and other powerups and elements specific to the game.  Your objective is to simply score as many points as possible while going as far as you can.  Meanwhile, behind you is the “glitch”, a representation of the glitched right side of the maze on the 256th level of the original Pac-Man game, motivating you to move forward.  If you are caught by either a ghost or go deep enough into the edge of the glitch, the game is over — no extra lives here.

Helping you out are other powerups that you can choose three from any that you have unlocked so far by eating more dots, and upgraded using coins you gain by moving over in the maze or completing missions such as eating so many of a certain powerup or killing so many ghosts.  These basically either give you other ways to kill the ghosts or at least limit their movement, or enhance your ability to get a higher score in your run.  (My favorite three are the one that turns Pac-Man into a bomb where any ghost you run into explodes as well as a large area that explodes around you when the power-up wears off, a laser shooting out of Pac-Man’s mouth that kills any ghost it touches, and my favorite, an electric powerup that destroys any ghost it touches as well as fairly quickly kills ghosts anywhere on the screen.)  There are lots of other interesting additions to the game, including being able to clear the maze of ghosts and gain a good bonus by collecting 256 dots consecutively (there are gaps in the dots here and there that will reset the counter, so it’s not just moving backwards that will break the chain), tunnels that work similarly to the ones in the original Pac-Man except that you also gain temporary invincibility when you exit one side, and arrow strips that will speed you up going along their line or slow you down going the other way.

The ghosts themselves add a very good strategy element to moving around the maze, as each ghost have a specific movement pattern you can exploit to avoid getting trapped.  For example, the red ghost will simply chase you, the pink one will only move towards you very quickly if you come into its line of sight, the gray one will stay still until you come close to it, the blue and orange ones prefer to cut you off instead of directly coming for you, and there are lines of ghosts that will move along a single horizontal corridor as more of a blocker than a real threat.  I really like this element of the game as it very much makes the game more of just a mindless, random runner game and hearkens back to the original game and the patterns of its ghosts.

Of course, the game has the trappings of its mobile pay to win roots — the game itself does get old fairly quickly, and the only real reason to play it for a long time (like I did) is to finish all ten achievements, especially the last one which requires a very long grind to level all the powerups to their maximum level, something that takes a very long time given that each powerup needs a total of 4,080 coins to fully level up and there are 18 powerups… and each coin you eat gives you either 4 or 10 coins and the missions will give you either 128, 256, 512, or 1,024 coins, heavily weighted to the low end of those numbers.  But I did it.  Suck it, game. 

PAC-MAN 256 is a very fun diversion, and if you like the original Pac-Man like I do, you might enjoy this.  Give it a try.

Atari, part two: Atari Vault on Steam

In addition to the Art of Atari book I got, I also grabbed a game — or, more accurately, a collection of games — on Steam called Atari VaultAnd it is spectacular.Screenshot_20161229_204627.png

It is a collection of one hundred late 70s and early 80s Atari videogames for both the Atari 2600 and the arcades, perfectly playable through a menu system.  It contains a huge number of both popular, lesser-known, and unreleased games for both arcade and the 2600.  Not all are great games, mind you, but there are more than enough games included to spend a lot of time on.

It features many different options, such as video filtering to make games look more like they did on the displays at the time (something I always turn off — I find filters very distracting), multiple options for game inputs, game manuals for 2600 games and promotional fliers for arcade games, a handful of Steam achievements (most of which are a little tricky to get — so far, I’ve achieved half of the twelve achievements), and online leaderboards for arcade game high scores, which is just awesome — I’m pretty high up the list on most games, but pathetically low on some.

And it’s available on SteamOS/GNU, as well as Windows!  Thank you, Atari and Code Mystics, for being aware of the hardcore group of gamers playing on GNU.

Now, sure, I know, you can rev up an emulator and “obtain” all these games to play them, but really, you have to buy and play collections like this if you are a fan of old games like I am just to show companies that there are still gamers that actually care about old games.  I put my money where my mouth is when it comes to old games, and prove that I’m not just someone that plays old games because they are “available” through certain “means”.  I’m willing to pay for good, quality collections of old games like this.

I’m waiting for more, and I’ll be there, ready to buy.