Category: Forgotten Franchises

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Destruction Derby Series – Forgotten Franchise

As I sat down to write this piece, I initially planned to write this as a straight retrospective piece on the first destruction derby game, reflecting on the game as a whole and reminiscing a bit about an old favourite. I mean, everyone will have heard about Destruction derby right? It was a big thing when it came out during the PlayStation era and was, for a while, a major title.

But that’s the thing, it was the PlayStation era and that’s 4 consoles ago, generationally. While the PlayStation era might not feel like that long ago to me, in reality it was aaagggessss ago. The console came out in 1995; nearly 19 years ago. Wow, that’s a reality check; Destruction Derby is now old enough to drink legally in the UK…

Suffice to say that, while I remember it and at 28 I’m, by no means even close to being considered middle-aged (hell I barely qualify as an adult depending on who you ask!) 18 years is long enough for a great many of our readers to have never heard of.

Right then, surely the later entries of the series will at least vindicate my assertion that everyone will have heard of the Destruction Derby series? Destruction Derby Arenas was the last game in the series and, while it was a bit… rubbish… it at least continued the name right? So when did that come out?

2004?? Ah…ok then…

Tell me that doesn’t look fun…

So then, Destruction Derby…

Destruction Derby was released, as we’ve established, in 1995 by Psygnosis (after being developed by Reflections Interactive) as part of the first wave of PlayStation games. Indeed, Psygnosis were rather prolific in their racing/driving games and were also responsible for Wipeout, which I covered previously.

The game, as you may guess from the name, tasks the player with competing in stock car races, eschewing the traditional jockeying for position, lap times and overtaking lanes for all out violent destruction. Starting to see why it was so good yet? Pretty much anything went when it came to battling for position in the game, with players actively encouraged to bash, smash and crash competitors off the track in a bid to finish first. While hardly endowed with finesse, subtlety or, admittedly, much variety, the stock car race mode was certainly entertaining.

To add a layer of tactical consideration and some level of realism, the cars had a level of destructibility, with areas of the car having a finite limit to the damage they could absorb before your car broke down. This was represented by an image of your car on the HUD with various parts that would change colour progressively from green to red as you took damage, finally changing to black when the limit was reached. Along with the progression of damage levels, the vehicle became more visually damaged, which was something new to players at the time and drew a lot of attention.

While the stock car racing was the more extensive aspect of the game, the second, eponymous, Destruction Derby mode was the one that really gained the most favour with the fans. This mode placed the cars in a large circular arena, inspiringly named ‘The Bowl’ with the target of wrecking the most cars before everyone was damaged beyond repair. This mode, while consisting of a single track and little to no variety was the standout aspect of the game and pretty much the reason the game gained the following it did. The was also a Wreckin’ Racing mode, which took the stock car mode and added the awarding of points for wrecking other cars, but that was rather hit or miss compared to the guaranteed action of the main Derby mode.

Following on from the success of the first game, its sequel, Destruction Derby 2 arrived hot on its heels the following year. Differing little from its predecessor, Destruction Derby 2 essentially offered more of the same. Basically, for a review of the 2nd game, just re-read the above paragraphs and add a 2 to the name. Everything from the race modes to the mechanics was the same. The main difference from a race perspective was the addition of several jumps on various tracks, which delivered even more carnage to proceedings.

Wreckin’ Mode – like racking, but better.

The reception for the game was on a similar level to that of its predecessor, though on a slightly lower trajectory, most likely due to the aforementioned lack of any real progression in gameplay.

This was not the case for the slightly belated sequel, Destruction Derby Raw. Released in 2000, the game was the first to be developed by a different studio, being taken up, as it was, by Studio 33.

Graphically the game was a step up, as you would expect, but the main change was in the development of the game modes. The existing modes were, in the main, repurposed, with only stock car racing being omitted. Wrecking Racing takes its place as the main race mode, retaining the same format as its predecessor, with a greatly-expanded quota of 25 tracks and 19 competitors. Smash 4 $ was a career mode, in which a player purchased and upgraded vehicles by earning money from in-race challenges. The previously simple Destruction Derby mode returned, but with much more variety, with a series of tracks and new game modes, which can be split into 2 categories, team events and solo challenges. The solo challenges were Armageddon, which tasked the player with surviving as long as possible, Vampyre; where players steal points from their opponent when they hit them, Skyscraper; a standard Derby mode, but with the ability to push cars off the edges of the track and Classic Mode, which remained the same as previous years. The team events were Assault; which tasked players with protecting a CPU-controlled partner car and Pass Da Bomb, where players had to hit an opponent to pass a bomb to them and the player holding the bomb when it went off was eliminated.

The game itself was relatively well-received, with average reviews at the time, though significantly down on previous iterations, mostly down to the lack of refined controls and, again, lack of major gaming variety.

Again, a 4 year delay occurred before the next, and final, game in the series arrived in the form of Destruction Derby: Arenas. Still developed by Studio 33, Arenas was quite a deviation in theme from the previous titles. The overall purpose remained the same, but the presentation was very different, shifting away from the realism of the previous titles to a more arcade experience. The game was poorly received, with many citing the cartoon-like stylings and rather outlandish characters. Indeed, the very fact that the game had characters at all was a huge change in style, one that put many players off.

The overall reaction to the game sounded the death knell for the series and Arenas proved to be the last Destruction Derby game to be released to date. Studio 33 were bought out by EA in 2003 and became EA North West and the Destruction Derby name disappeared from the industry, though similar games such as Empire Interactive’s Flatout continue its legacy.

Destruction Derby wasn’t big and it certainly wasn’t clever, but what it was, was damn good fun and the fact that the last version of note to appear was over 13 years ago means that few younger gamers will have ever had the chance to play such a brilliantly joyous game.

If ever there was a franchise in gaming that is ripe for a revival its Destruction Derby… so long as they don’t mess about with the formula too much.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to listen to some Steppenwolf and get some pixelated smashing on.

DAH

Destroy All Humans – The Greatest Game You’ve Never Played

We all know the story of The War Of The Worlds. In fact if you don’t, get out as you are no longer welcome reading this article. It was the radio show that frightened your grandparents, the film that enthralled your parents, the musical score that has engaged so many, and the American remake which has disappointed almost everyone who watched it. And it was whilst I was watching the American remake that my distracted mind stumbled on a question I had not asked myself before; if I was an invading alien, how would I go about taking over the planet? That is why today I am writing about Destroy All Humans, the greatest game you’ve never played.
Read more …

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Forgotten Franchises – Cool Spot

The 1980s to 1990s was undoubtedly the era  of the platformer. Bearing witness, as it did, to the spiritual birth of the console era proper, the period can boast many of the best examples of the genre. In those heady days of discovery, the games industry had something of a wild west feel to it; a feeling of a new frontier with fantastic new discoveries being unveiled seemingly every week.

From this brave new world came some of the true luminaries of the industry. The stomping ground of titans like Sonic and Mario, the final decades of the 20th century set the tone for what could be argued to be platforming perfection, refining the genre to the point of virtual perfection. Read more …

Delta Force 2 Full Version

Delta Force 2 – A Blast From The Past

All I wanted in my early teens was a Sega Saturn. I was desperate for one, however my mum would never buy me one. She was more interested in making sure that I went outside, socialised and got some exercise. Because of this, I can’t really remember how I ended up with this game. It’s also why I hate the outside world and actively avoid conversation with other people. Nevertheless, what I do know is that Delta Force 2 was my first proper first person shooter and formed my expectations of the genre all the way up until Call of Duty Finest Hour. Read more …

King’s Quest Part 2

I realize I’ve been doing the Forgotten Franchise articles a lot lately and I SWEAR I’ll talk about a game made within the last 20 years soon. I’d love to do a review on Darksiders 2 or something but while checking on my money I realized that I spent 400 bucks on the Steam Summer Sale. It was just so easy when it was several dozen 5 dollar games! Imagine my embarrassment. Anyway King’s Quest is a long franchise and we’ve got a lot of ground to cover. Last time I mentioned we hadn’t even made it out of the 80’s yet but fortunately the next game to cover was released in 1989.

THE MANLIEST GAME EVER

King’s Quest 4: The Perils of Rosella was actually the second Kings Quest game I played, and it was also the few games at the time that featured a female protagonist. Looking back I wonder if this was part of my mom’s sinister plan to prevent me from assuming gender roles. After all, girls can be heroes too! The story in this one picks up immediately after where the third game ends. Spoiler alert Gwydion from 3 is one of King Graham’s two children. He escaped his enslavement, discovered his origin, sailed across the sea to rescue his sister and return home to his parents. However it was all cut short when Graham had a heart attack and collapsed. Everyone’s pretty bummed and Rosella goes off to cry alone. While sobbing the famed Magic Mirror is activated and a solution to save Graham is presented to Rosella: If she helps Genesta the Fairy Queen retrieve her lost amulet she may also find a rare fruit that will save Graham . Standing in her way is the Dark Fairy Lolotte and as always the cruel dangers of Sierra games.

Now were talking! A haunted mansion in the middle of a graveyard! It’s even got a ghost baby inside!

Ok it’s not exactly the most masculine sounding of plots but you know Fantasy doesn’t always have to be The Witcher and Lord of the Rings damn it, there used to be room for whimsy! Besides, there are zombies. The graphics have been given quite a boost finally with this installment but the interface is still done by typing. This one also has a handful of notoriously annoying segments. I bet you never realized how hard it was to climb a whales tongue, or for that matter, find the required whale in the first place. Or make it through a trolls cave entirely by random chance. The game returns to the formula of the first 2 games by having you seek out 3 special items as the meat of the game, this time in the style of payment for Lolotte allowing you to live. All in all, it’s still a solid game and an enjoyable adventure. I think what makes it so good is that the villain is present throughout a large majority of the game, giving a sense of accomplishment at the end. It’s the last hurrah of the carefree days of old in the series, for the next game would become a thing of infamy…

What kind of witch gives people fair warning?

It should come as no surprise to me that King’s Quest 5: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder has seen some popularity as of late with Let’s Plays and the mockery of them. King’s Quest 5 is presented on Sierras brand new SCI engine that has done away with typing in favor of 4-5 icons with which you will now interact with the world. Gone are the days of typing profanity and seeing if it gets you a comical Easter egg. Not only have the graphics been bumped and interface simplified, but the game now has ambiance sound, a musical score, and perhaps most damningly, it’s fully voiced. Voice acting these days has people assuming quality, but for Kings Quest 5 it means the art department was brought in to read some lines. I won’t pick on the voices and dialogue too much since that freak show has already been covered much more humorously by the likes of Retsupurae and JonTron.

You will learn to loathe this useless bag of feathers and his Betty Childs voice.

What can’t be stressed enough is how stultifyingly difficult the game is to figure out. Sure the old ones took some strange thinking to finish but none were as bizarre and unforgiving as 5. Seemly minor occurrences early on have grave consequences later in the game. Did you notice the sled in town? I hope you got it because you can’t get through the mountains without it, AND you can’t go back to get it if you didn’t! Oh you got it? How did you get it? Did you buy it with the one gold coin you get in the game? I HOPE NOT BECAUSE THAT WILL BE REQUIRED TO BUY THE PIE! And don’t scoff at how important the pie is! What do you mean you fed the pie to the hungry eagle? NOW WHAT WILL YOU THROW AT THE YETI?!?! And don’t think that you can just avoid these situations, THERE ARE NO OPTIONAL SOLUTIONS TO PROBLEMS IN THIS GAME YOU WILL DO IT RIGHT OR NOT AT ALL! If the difficulty wasn’t enough the game is also buggy, as were all Sierra games at the time. Ah the halcyon days of early PC gaming! Thank god the internet came around and let people fix things themselves. At the time though, the flashy graphics, voice acting, and the fancy new CD-Rom disc were enough to win over quite a few people! (18 megabytes, how immense! Games will never exceed THAT size they said!)

All right! We’re back to the whimsical days in wacky-town!

Fortunately when Kings Quest 6: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow rolled around Sierra had gotten their act together again. Returning to the spotlight is Alexander/Gwydion from Kings Quest 3, having fully recovered from the events of the past 2 games Alexander fell in love with the last games antagonists slave girl who turned out to be a Princess herself. In a foolhardy act of a love-struck young man he sets of to her mysterious homeland in the Green Isles. Upon arrival he discovers that the Green Isles are in disarray and he in unable to talk to the Princess. With no means of leaving the island he runs amok and unravels the conspiracy behind everything.

The Lord of the Dead actually looks pretty badass

Kings Quest 6 isn’t nearly as brutally unforgiving and bizarre as 5, and like the 4th game the villain is present throughout the game and the goal is so-close-yet-so-far. Solutions to problems make a bit more sense and the setting and hints are tied together well enough to let you figure things out yourself much easier. This could have been due to what was going on outside of Sierra, mainly that they were having competition. Lucasarts was churning out quality adventure games thanks to Tim Schafer and Myst was skyrocketing in popularity and redefining what adventure games were. Some of the Lucasarts games even had a feature where you couldn’t enter a no-win situation which made the games more accessible. Sierra took notice but not quite in the way expected.

Oh God I don’t like where this is going

Kings Quest 7: The Princeless Bride was almost a complete overhaul from previous games. The art style was lifted somewhat from Lucasarts games and instead of realism the games tried to look like an interactive Disney movie. If you’ve ever seen the Legend of Zelda CD-I games you’ll get the idea. Even the item interaction was done similar to Lucasarts, except without the 9 options for ways to interact. This game would bring back the star of Kings Quest 4, Princess Rosella, and for the first time her mother, Queen Valenice who had mostly been in the background of the previous games since 2. The game was divided into chapters and featuring short sequences switching off between the two protagonists.

I always wondered what it would be like if Queen Elizabeth fought a giant scorpion.

Whoops, I forgot to mention the story. Like the previous game, the other child of King Graham sought love too, or rather to avoid being forced to marry at first. While arguing by a nearby lake after a peculiar musical number, they are whisked away by an evil witch/queen person to a fanciful realm not unlike Disneyland. Separated and confused, Valenice awakens in a strange desert temple with a rather large scorpion nearby. Rosella on the other hand is in the Kingdom of Trolls having been transformed into one herself. Of all the Kings Quest games this is the one I’ve played the least (8 doesn’t count but more on that later). Mostly because the art style and animation are fairly unlikable and while some aspects of Kings Quest are there the game feels seriously lacking. Maybe it’s the inconsistent and poorly made movements like the Clutch Cargo style mouth movements, or that EVERYONE at the time seemed to think that the CD-I style graphics were the greatest thing ever despite the gameplay suffering for it. For better or worse, the game wrapped things up for King Graham’s family. His kids were married and moved on and all was calm and peaceful without the previous games subtext being explored.

I don’t want to spoil whats in store for the final installment but it involves skeletons.

Sierra would churn out one more Kings Quest game that had very little to do with the previous titles. However, I wanted to save it and a few more games related to Kings Quest in the next and final installment. Don’t worry, I’m almost done milking this cow dry.