Find all previous editions of the PCG Q&A here. Some highlights:
- How much free storage space have you got on your PC?
- Have you ever had to downgrade after an upgrade?
- What game have you spent the most hours in?
I think it had aliens in it. And the theme tune was unforgettable. It went, "da DA da," or something like that. Is there a game locked away in your memories, something from the distant past, that you can't remember the name of and nobody else ever mentions? In the foggy soup of edu-games and random things that came packaged with the family PC, is there something you wish you could recall? Maybe someone else will know what you're talking about. Now that I think about it, they probably weren't aliens. They might have just been weird fish.
Is there a game only you seem to remember?
Here are our answers, plus some from our forum.
Lauren Aitken, Deputy Guides Editor: Definitely "Rock Manager", I honestly thought I'd dreamt it up because nobody ever knew what I was talking about. Finally found out its name the other day and I can finally rest easy.
Robin Valentine, Print Editor: There's a game I was trying to figure out the name of just yesterday. I remember playing it at my cousin's house one day. It involved trying to survive on a fairly barren alien planet by splicing together the DNA of a handful of different creatures. You could combine a horse-like creature with a bird, for example, to get a new animal with the endurance of the former and the flight of the latter. In my memory it's isometric, and the creatures were little more than green silhouettes. This would probably have been mid to late '90s, though the game might've been older. And no, it wasn't Impossible Creatures. What is impossible is trying to google all that.
Nat Clayton, Features Producer: Like Robin said, we were all sort of scouring our brains for oldies in Slack the other day, and I got stuck in a hole trying to remember one CD from a pile of dozens my dad used to keep in an old box next to our beige TIME PC. In a complete moment of obsessive panic I even googled, and I quote, "what's that 90s PC dogfighting game where you shoot UFOs and Old Macdonald sometimes plays", trying to cast back to a single vague memory of being 7 years old. Turns out, at least some combination of those works landed me on a Reddit page from someone asking a similar question, revealing the game to be 1998's Incoming by Rage Software—a game so unashamedly generic it coulda been plucked off the set of an NCIS murder scene.
That's one childhood gaming mystery solved. Now, if only I could ever get closure on that game about being a wee haggis cutting across the ugliest hills y'ever saw, running away from a giant man. I swear to god it's real.
Tyler Wilde, Executive Editor: It was a platformer with vertical levels. I think you moved from the top of the screen to the bottom, and the character was a penguin. I would've played it on a home computer in the late '80s or early '90s. For whatever reason, penguins were popular characters in the '80s and '90s, so there are lots of things it could be. There's Penguin Land (opens in new tab), but that was a Sega Master System game, and I'm certain we didn't have a Master System. The first game Hideo Kojima worked on as a professional designer was also a Master System penguin game called Penguin Adventure (opens in new tab). But it's not that. It's not Atari 2600 game Pengo, and it's not Ice Block, Petch, Snokie, or Mr Frosty and the Killer Penguins. The likeliest candidate is 1988 Amiga game Aunt Arctic Adventure (opens in new tab), which almost slipped by me because the penguin only appears as the second player, and player one is a monkey. It feels very familiar, but still not quite like the penguin game I remember, which was simpler. Granted, I was like five years old. It's possible I just remember seeing a penguin character and then made up a whole game that doesn't exist. I'll probably never know unless I can find it in a box somewhere.
Robin, it sounds like you're describing SimLife. If it wasn't that, I have no idea.
Wes Fenlon, Senior Editor: I've had good success posting vague descriptions of half-forgotten things from my childhood on forums over the years and other people miraculously figuring them out. It's probably the single best use for internet forums, to be honest, behind troubleshooting whatever's wrong with a particular model of washing machine from 1993 or whatever. People once helped me rediscover Budokan, a DOS game we had on our family PC that was either so bad, or I was so bad at it, that I probably never got more than 10 minutes in.
A couple memorable non-game eurekas:
Gallavants (opens in new tab), a bizarre children's cartoon about fantasy ants who go on some kind of quest. The main character is ashamed he hasn't gone through ant puberty yet and gotten his butt hump, so in the most memorable scene he cuts a fruit that looks like a watermelon in half and sticks it on his ass. It almost works.
Samson & Sally (opens in new tab), another '80s cartoon about a young whale who believes in the legend of Moby Dick. Eventually he finds Moby Dick and, spoiler, the great whale is now extremely old and decrepit and it's a major bummer.
As for games, there's one I used to play that I haven't gone hunting too deeply for, but do want to know what it was. It was a cave exploration game, kind of an early '90s Spelunky, with lots of traps and things that would instantly kill you. I remember there being boulders (I think with faces on them, like thwomp blocks?) that would fall on your head and crack your skull when you walked under them. I remember it using quite small pixel graphics. I think there were a lot of grass tiles that looked like wheat? The more I type the more I want to know what it was.
(10 minutes later, I figured it out: Herman and the Falling Rocks).
Chris Livingston, Features Producer: I can't recall any games that only I remember, but since everyone has their thinking caps on help me out with a children's book. It was about a friendly giant (not the BFG) who lived near a village but everyone hated him even though he was nice. There was an evil wizard, I think, and the wizard shot a magic beam at the town and the giant jumped in front of it and everyone thought he was dead. But the beam bounced off the shaving mirror the giant was wearing around his neck so he was fine (spoilers). And the villagers liked him after that, because all you really have to do to make people stop hating you for no reason is attempt to sacrifice your life for them.
Anyone know what this book was called?
Evan Lahti, Global Editor-in-Chief: This is such a fun question. I'm still trying to track down the names of games from the '90s I brushed up against, like an edu-adventure game that had something to do with meteorology and storm chasing. The piles of demos and shareware circulating made it easy for ephemeral games to appear and vanish.
Virus deserves a mention here, a game with a premise guaranteed to frighten your parents in the age of the Family Computer. In Virus, your PC's actual files became the structure and window dressing for a Descent-style spaceship shooter where you hunted down malicious programs. Don't worry dad, it's just a game! None of your precious files were in actual jeopardy, but the game's publisher didn't help things by pulling a marketing stunt on filesharing websites that resembled an actual virus (opens in new tab) but disguised itself as a keygen. Helluva way to promote a game—imagine the furore today on social media if a Steam demo walked and talked like malware. Its publisher, Sir-Tech, is better remembered for creating Wizardry and Jagged Alliance.
From our forum
Zloth: Eamon Adventures was like that for me for a long time but, obviously, I did eventually re-discover the name. I can always find them now, with a little googling.
DXCHASE: Timelapse, I wish it would get a remastered version like Myst. I loved that game and the 7 discs it came with.
FreezerBurn: Legend of the Red Dragon. It was a game we played on bulletin boards that you had to dial into... pre internet.
Pifanjr: There's one game I remember seeing at an acquaintance's house when I was a kid, probably around 8-10 years old. I think something went wrong with starting it up or something, because I don't think we played any of it. I just remember it having a lot of brown and I'm pretty sure the name started with a D. I've never heard anyone mention anything about a game that reminded me of that game since then.
WoodenSaucer: A really great game that I'm the only one who remembers is Giants: Citizen Kabuto. And I'm not sure why nobody remembers it. It seemed like a cutting edge AAA game back in 2000 when it came out, but maybe it didn't do as well as I thought it did. It was an amazing game, though.
Kaamos_Llama: Remember the combat in the original Witcher? It was kind of like a rhythm challenge with mouse clicks. There was an RPG game for the PS2 a few years before that had a similar system except you had to press the correct face button in order or you lost rhythm and missed an attack leaving you open. Top down view like a Cannon Fodder or Commandos, might be that you could zoom in and it became more 3d but I preferred to be further out.
I always thought it was called Summoner, apparently that was something else.
mainer: Almost 20 years ago (2003) there was an isometric RPG called LionHeart: Legacy of the Crusader, developed by Black Isle Studios and published by Interplay. It was sort of a supernatural take of the Medieval Period on Earth, and you (the player) were a descendant of King Richard the Lionheart. You journeyed through an alternate Europe, dealing with various factions, people & enemies. From what little I can remember, it played very similar to the Baldur's Gate games. But instead of D&D rules, it used a modified SPECIAL system, which was the system used in Fallout 1 & 2.
I don't think it was very popular or successful for some reason, and no one I've mentioned it to has any memory of it.
Brian Boru: Ah, just thought of one: Dark Reign 1 & 2 were pretty decent RTS games which nobody seems to remember in the last decade. They came out in the golden RTS era, and so got buried under all the AAA RTSs of the time.
I rate the DRs AA. Both are available on GOG—read the first few reviews, you will need to grab a community patch for DR1.
Sarafan: It's Submarine Titans in my case. The game is an old RTS that draws the best characteristics from Starcraft and blends it with an underwater setting. I remember that when the game was released some reviewers announced it as a Starcraft successor. Even the three fractions resemble heavily those from Starcraft. Time showed however that the game didn't gain the popularity it deserved. It's mostly forgotten now, but you can actually buy it on digital distribution platforms. I would highly recommend it to every strategy fan.
flashn00b: Operation: Inner Space. The people who made the game are currently MIA, and the last time we've seen them, they've shown no interest in porting the game to 32-bit or 64-bit operating systems, which really kills the appeal of the game if you can only run it on a virtual machine or DOSBOX Win3.1 folder. Basically, it's a top-down shooter in a similar vain to Asteroids, though the game world's currency are icons represented by .exe or .dll files present in your actual computer, and icons are used to repair/upgrade your ship along with purchasing new weapons to use other than your basic machinegun.
Where the fun really happens with Inner Space however, are the NPC ships that spawn in after clearing the first few folders that introduce players to what's probably the first implementation AI faction wars in a singleplayer action game, along with a basic law and order system that the player is seemingly encouraged to throw out the window, though if you are found stealing the spoils of war or destroy one too many donut launchers, the Enforcers will eventually give up on arresting you and try and kill you outright.
It sucks that we'll never see another game like Inner Space, because the concept of your computer's contents being a means of level generation is a pretty novel concept especially when the point of the game is that it takes place inside your computer.