People got very excited when Double Fine started working on Brütal Legend, and Full Throttle is the reason why. This classic LucasArts adventure has a similar theme and setting (although it turned out the two projects had nothing to do with each other). Tim Schafer’s first game as sole project lead, it established his reputation well ahead of Grim Fandango and Psychonauts, and despite being kind of short has an uncontested position amongst cult classics.
Two sequels were attempted but neither really went anywhere (besides maybe the recycling bin, for Brütal Legend), and the whole Disney buy out means we’re unlikely to see anything come of LucasArt’s back catalogue for many years. That said if Grim Fandango can get a modern re-release, there’s hope.
I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream
Based on a short story by Harlan Ellison, I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream is a tense and atmospheric point-and-click adventure with cyberpunk themes. Starring five playable protagonists in a series of simultaneous stories, this psychological horror lingers in the mind long after you’ve thought your way through its logical but challenging puzzles.
The Dreamers Guild has gone out of business but distributor Night Dive got the rights back a few years ago, resurrecting this piece of abandonware and putting it up for sale through digital distributors. The graphics aren’t easy on the eye – but neither is anything else. Profoundly disturbing and not for everyone.
The PSOne did polygons better than contemporary consoles, and it needed games to show that off. This was the era in which fully explorable 3D worlds started to take off and indeed revolutionise the industry in such a way that it’s hard to explain to younger people what it was like to witness the transformation. In Jumping Flash, you leap between platforms and shoot things, all in first-person perspective, and everything is 3D. It was amazing.
It’s not that amazing now, to be honest, because it turns out that first-person is a terrible thing to do to platformers. But it’s still much more playable than it ought to be, and available via the PSN.
Mortal Kombat 3
Depending on which side of the debate you’re on, Mortal Kombat 3 is either where the franchise jumped the shark or started getting really good. Although it all got thrown out with a recent reboot, this is the game where Midway decided it couldn’t just make games about unexplained mystical tournaments, but needed some sort of continuity and narrative drive to pull together its cast of characters, who had always enjoyed diverse and interesting backstories and epilogues. Your mileage may vary as to the result of this decision.
The run button was a controversial addition, and several characters were left out, only to return in the Ultimate and Trilogy re-releases – now an accepted fighting game convention, but then seen as a bit money-grubbing. The new characters didn’t go down as well as the new additions of Mortal Kombat 2 did. And there just wasn’t enough new content to justify the upgrade for all but hardcore fans – of which there were plenty, obviously, as it sold like hotcakes.
A product of the mid 1990’s zeitgeist, Phantasmagoria was quite the departure for Sierra. Following on from games like The 7th Guest, it developed the genre a little bit further in putting an actor on-screen as the player character, which makes the (then controversially graphic) horror and gore elements all the more startling.
Like all FMV games of the era, Phantasmagoria has not aged well and looks like a dog’s breakfast today. Luckily, it’s also not that great, so you’re not missing much if you choose to skip it: it seemed shocking and daring at the time, but it feels pretty weaksauce today.
Released towards the end of the popularity of traditional character mascot platformers, Rayman didn’t win fame the way Sonic, Mario and other famous side-scrollers did. It is, however, perfectly delightful, and deservedly won acclaim (and awards) for its gorgeous graphics and wonderful audio. Sort of like the modern Rayman games, really. Despite its comparatively low profile in the US, it was a major best-seller in the UK, and is too well-known in Europe to be considered a cult classic; it’s just a classic.
Goodness knows why a little man with disconnected arms was chosen to front this series, but Michel Ancel’s whimsy comes part and parcel with his tremendous gift for crafting perfect platformers.
Star Wars: Dark Forces
Not one of the best-rated Star Wars games, Dark Forces is still an important part of the gaming canon, because it kicked off one of the most-loved Star Wars games series: Jedi Knight. Yes, Jedi Knight 1 is actually Dark Forces 2, and the basis for a series that dropped its earlier moniker along with its lower review scores.
Dark Forces isn’t bad, although it’s quite dated now. It did a great job of creating new settings that felt recognisably Star Wars, and the gameplay was a little more challenging than its contemporaries, making the journey from start to end of each level feel like more than a fetch quest and shooting gallery.