Yes, all good things must come to an end, and so must our weekly dive into the strangest and most unusual games that PC Gaming has to offer. We've braved the Tongue of the Fatman, battled Bikini Karate Babes, learned the ways of serial killers in the town of Harvester and many more - over 200 dives into the archives, and roughly 47,023 explanations that 'crapshoot' wasn't intended to mean 'crap'. Well, not always.
Yeah, in retrospect, I should probably have thought of a better name. Oh well!
As a final send-off though, here's a look back at five of my favourites from over the past four-and-a-bit years - not the best games, not the worst, and not in any particular order... just five that most amused while taking a nostalgic run through the archives. (Due to the age of the column, not all have been tagged up yet on the new site, but you'll find the full chronological list here.)
American Laser Games
I don't pretend to be good at making videos, but I was pretty pleased with how this one turned out - a look back at the most famous light-gun games of the 90s, in all their goofy charm. Actually making it proved an absolute nightmare thanks to the difficulties of ripping DVDs with fancy jumping-around scripting and the appalling quality of the original home versions, and ultimately meant stitching together a lot of sequences from the raw clips. Still, I think the result is a pretty solid retrospective of some iconic titles.
The You Testament / Hard Time
Bless MDickie. Who else would try to create an epic religious game/documentary using a wrestling engine, only to end up with a game where you can possess Jesus using superpowers he gives you and make him go and kick people in the balls. I am not kidding. This is a thing you can do in The You Testament. Things didn't any saner when he turned his attention to the prison system for Hard Time, which should probably be put in schools to scare pupils away from a life of crime. Or make them laugh their entire arses off before they go and steal a car, a handbag AND a movie.
Life And Death
While Crap Shoot tended to focus on genres like adventures, because it allowed for jokey recaps, many of my favourites were the more concepty-ones; playing a serious (or serious-ish) game and trying to make it funny. Life and Death was definitely one of the more popular ones, the game hitting a nice sweet-spot in being serious enough that riffing on it wasn't just repeating its jokes, while having enough sense of cheer to actually let you do awful things like repeatedly stabbing patients in the eye with a pin. Far too often, you're just blocked from those things because of 'professionalism'. But Life and Death? Despite its subject, it had a sense of fun, and that really helped.
AKA Arm Joe, a Japanese attempt to turn the legendary book/musical into a Street Fighter game. Yes. Yes, really. Les Miserables is a Game That Exists.
As a weekly column that often required hours and hours with games to get screenshots and do recaps, many Crap Shoots ended up going almost down to the wire. But that's largely what made it work as a column - with no time to second-guess ideas and just pushing forwards, crazy things often ended up happening. This was probably the most extreme case, where until about 2AM I had a fairly dry write-up of a funny game that just wasn't flowing, and then by 9AM, had somehow ended up writing musical parodies of several songs. It's rough as hell, but the result amused me and got a roughly 50/50 ratio of "That was great!" to "What the hell did I just read?!"
There's a real joy in finding something that makes people just go "What... the... f...", possibly with an extra syllable on the end, and few have done it better than The BlobJob. In the world of the weird, there are two wells that never run dry - porny weirdness (Venus Hostage, GAG: The Impotent Mystery, Womb Raider...) and edutainment insanity like, say, Mean City. Amazingly, this one is edutainment, though what exactly you're meant to learn by staring at a dead man's hairy crotch, I'm really not sure. Not to name your game anything that's likely to appear in Urban Dictionary, presumably. Also, this was the 50th column. End a milestone on a milestone, I say.
And that's it. That's the end. No more astoundingly over-written piffle, no more fighting with Virtual PC until late in the night, no more screaming at long-dead QA. Regrets, I've got a few, mostly that the time pressures of a weekly column meant that many interesting RPGs and strategy games and other things like that never made their way off the pile, but there was just no way to get through the likes of, say, Descent to Undermountain or sadly under appreciated things like Darklands in both enough time and with enough detail to really get a flavour for what made them tic.
Maybe some day though. Another time, another excuse for a retrospective.
Or just a random chance to use this picture for something...
Until then, I'll be back soon with a new series, and more on that later. For those who've been following for a long time, I'd just like to throw in a special note of gratitude for reading, commenting, tweeting and joining in on the more recent livestreams, and being so damn encouraging when I'd try something crazy. Without that, I'd never have had the confidence to do any video content (the first was inevitably abysmal since I had no idea what I was doing, but I had faith that people would be tolerant, and it was more than repaid), or the enthusiasm to go off-book with stuff like Lone Wolf and the livestreams. At a time when reading comments can be a soul-crushing thing, you have been universally lovely. Well, except for a couple of guys. But they're dead now.
Similar thanks of course to the mag staff, for giving me this little space and pretty much unlimited freedom to produce nonsense for you on a weekly basis. I like to think it's allowed for something a little more interesting than your average retro features and columns... though I guess I probably would, wouldn't I? Either way, it's been fun, and as it fades into the same inevitable obscurity as most of its subjects, I hope at least a few people will remember it fondly.
This was Saturday Crapshoot. Thanks a million for indulging me.
(P.S. Myst is still shit.)