Most people in their late 20s/early 30s will agree that the 1990’s was a fantastic time to be alive. The music was awesome, the movies were superb and some of TVs most iconic shows were created. But one industry owes more than any other to the 90s, the video game industry.
Developers: Interactive Binary Illusions, SubZero Software, 3D Realms (Apogee Software), Wildfire Studios, JAM Productions, Scenario Software, Remedy, 3D Realms, Interceptor Entertainment, Sunstorm Interactive, 3D Realms, Moonlite Software, Redwood Games, Animation F/X, Cygnus Studios, Terminal Reality, Beavis Soft, Argo Games
Publisher: 3D Realms (Apogee Software)
Reviewed on: Windows PC
Also Available On: Mac OS X
Release Date: Out Now
While SEGA and Nintendo were battling it out on the console front, the PC gaming community was enjoying something of a golden age of Shareware distribution, a time when gamers would rush out to buy the latest PC magazines knowing full well that attached to the front would be a CD Rom loaded with demos and trials. This is how us pre-broadband folk got our first look at many of the games that we now consider classics.
Nostalgia is a fantastic thing, especially when it comes to gaming, we look back on our childhood and remember a time when games may have had simpler graphics but made up for it in awesome gameplay. But were these games really as good as we remember them? Or are we looking back on the past with rose-tinted glasses? 3D Realms Anthology sets out to answer those questions.
Containing a whopping 32 games, the anthology covers almost all of 3D Realms’ back-catalogue as a developer and publisher under the name Apogee Software, from 1991’s Duke Nukem through to 1997’s Shadow Warrior. There’s something for every gamer in this pack, whether you’re drawn to FPS, platformers, puzzle games or even racing there’s something to cover most tastes.
Looking at the anthology as a whole, there are a few stand-out titles which many will recognise, not least the Duke Nukem game series (it’s ok, this is before the trouble Duke had with Forever). If you’re a fan of Nukem then you’ll get your money’s worth before you’ve even begun to explore the rest of pack.
The anthology contains four Duke Nukem games, including the series original, Duke Nukem 2, Duke Nukem: Manhatten Project and arguably one of the best games of its time, Duke Nukem 3D. For me personally this is the highlight of the whole pack, it’s Duke friggin’ Nukem 3D. Even today, some 20 years since it’s original release the game still plays extremely well, controls are smooth as ever and the fun level has not diminished, the game has aged surprisingly well.
The same can be said about the side-scroller games in the franchise, father time has been extremely good to them and if you were to put these games side by side with a couple of recent indie hits, then they can still hold their own. But let’s face it, the Nukem is 3D Realms’ most successful and most well-known franchise, what about the other 28 games in the pack?
Realistically, there’s a very good chance that you’re not going to recognise half of the games on this list, there are a few obscure ones on offer. While variety is not in short supply with the pack, it does feel like an awful lot of these games fall under the heading of 2D side-scroller. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just means that you may find yourself skipping over a few games to avoid tedium.
There are definitely some notable highlights in this category though, Bio Menace for example. With a story that reads like Escape from New York meets Men in Black, you play mulleted CIA operative Snake Logan and his adventures through Metro City during an alien invasion. The game oozes charm, it’s a great example of it’s time with insanely odd bad guys, interesting levels and a soundtrack to set the scene. The controls are tight, the visuals appealing, definitely one at the top of my list.
Once you’ve had your fill of Duke Nukem 3D there are a couple of other FPS games I highly recommend. The two Blake Stone games, Aliens of Gold and Planet Strike are definitely worth some of your game time, though if you’ve never played them before they may still look familiar. This is because they utilise the Wolfenstein 3D engine, replace Nazi’s with genetically modified mutants and you’ve got Blake Stone. If, like me, you were a fan of Wolfenstein back in the day then you should get a good deal of fun out of these games.
Outside of the shooter category we have a few interesting additions. 1994’s Wacky Wheels is an odd one to say the least. Released two years after Nintendo’s mind-blowingly successful Super Mario Kart, this game feels like a bit of a knock off. Well, it is really, it’s as though the developers are taken the Mario game, removed the iconic characters and replaced them with zoo animals. A knock off it may be, but not a cheap one. Compared to Nintendo’s game, Whacky Wheels is almost like for like on controls, quality and fun, it’s definitely one for racing fans.
Sticking with the racing genre, we also have top-down Death Rally. Create your own character and play as a newcomer in an underground racing organisation using weaponized vehicles to bring added carnage to the tracks. For a 1996 release, it seems a little primitive though the visuals scream Micro Machines. The controls take a little getting used to but there’s still the fun value of racing around a track with weapons so don’t expect too much from this game and you’ll enjoy it.
If pinball is more your thing then you’re in luck as 1997’s Balls of Steel (cue infantile sniggers) is also included in the pack. Featuring five different tables, one of which is, of course a Duke Nukem table, Balls of Steel is the only pinball game developed by aptly named Pinball Wizards. It’s definitely not perfect, the screen scrolls with the ball making the game a tad more difficult than it ever needed to be but the artwork is impressive for its day and it’s a fun distraction from all of the shooters.
Two of the more bizarre additions to the anthology are the “Educational platformers”, Math Rescue and Word Rescue. These two games aren’t going to get much attention from the majority of players unless you have young children that is. My seven-year-old daughter had a play and wasn’t overly enthusiastic so the target audience for these is most likely five and under.
Returning to the overall package, there is a lot on offer here. The overabundance of platform shooters may put off some gamers but for those that enjoy a side-scroller there are very few places that will find such great examples of the dominant genre of the 90s.
Given that the large majority of the collection is from the days of Windows 3.1, it’s not surprising that these games were all originally released for DOS. Rather than a full redevelopment of each game, the modern compilation deals with the antiquated operating system through DOSBox, a DOS emulator that runs superbly well through Steam. This means you’re getting the real thing, the game exactly how it was meant to be play, but with the odd tweak here and there.
The appeal of the collection will very much depend on what type of gamer you are. If you have moved with the times and never looked back at your gaming past then you’re probably not going to give this pack a second glance but if, like me, you appreciate the early days of gaming and how those games influenced what we have now then I highly recommend the 3D Realms Anthology.
The visuals may be outdated but the fun aspect of these graphically simplistic games has stood the test of time.
The 3D Realms Anthology is available now via the steam store for £29.99 ($39.99).
- The inclusion of four Duke Nukem games adds a considerable amount of value
- 32 Games to choose from
- With the variety on offer there’s something for most tastes
- Overabundance of platform shooters may put off some gamers
- Some of the more obscure games will likely just clog up your Steam library