As usual, instead of wooing the opposite sex like a normal red-blooded mammal, you’re wasting your highly evolved and complex brain by using it play a multiplayer FPS computer game, and you click and drool away in the dungeon of a room you call home. You and your allies are under attack by the Germans at the mp_Battle_of_the_Bulge, and you frantically fire your M1 Garand at the enemy (missing every shot) until you realize most of your comrades had fallen to enemy fire and are getting tea-bagged by the 256th Volksgrenadier division. So it goes. Scurrying away into the forest like the brazen hero you are, you search for ammo and health kits, quickly becoming lost in the freezing forests of Luxembourg. Noticing your stamina and health bars are almost depleted, you stop in the forest and lean against a tree, and close your eyes. That is when you become unstuck in time. Your attention swings through the full arc of your life, from death to pre-birth. You swing back into life and stop. You’re back in the 1990’s in front of your old gaming computer, and on its desktop are the shortcuts to three classic games that are so original and awesome, they have anchored you to this point in time. These games are:
The Neverhood (1996)
Also known as The Neverhood Chronicles and Klaymen Klaymen in Japan, this point-and-click adventure game was developed by The Neverhood, Inc. and published DreamWorks Interactive. What sets this apart from other click-and-point adventure games is its humor, quirkiness, and charm coupled with the fact that all the animation is done in claymation, including the sets. This makes the art-style and graphics unique and ageless. You guide the main character, Klaymen, through a world made out of clay, filled with bizarre puzzles to discover the origins of himself and the clay universe. One of the puzzles involving spitting into a row of tubes to change the tune they play, until the tune matches the song played by a doorbell, unlocking the door and allowing you to continue. The game is simple yet beautiful, the music eccentric yet excellent, and if you love movies like the Wallace and Gromit series, this hidden gem of an adventure game is a must play.
Released in 1996 by Maxis, the game was a 3D flight simulator and was the first game to use “Simlish” the weird language everyone speaks in The Sims series. Although the game was a commercial failure and was riddled with weird bugs and iffy graphics, it actually is quite fun to play for several reasons. You could import 2D cities you designed in SimCity 2000 and fly around them in 3D in SimCopter. You would start with a weak, tiny, and hard-to-fly helicopter and complete various missions thrown at you randomly. There were various mission types like clearing traffic jams, firefighting, dispersing riots, medical evacuations, and catching criminals. You would earn cash and buy better helicopters and add upgrades, like water cannons or tear-gas launchers. How well you designed your city in SimCity 2000 would affect the difficulty of the gameplay in Simcopter, meaning if you didn’t place adequate police stations or hospitals, the sims you’d be carrying in your helicopter would bleed out before you got to a hospital. There’s nothing like rushing to drop off a patient on a hospital roof, missing, and hearing him scream all the way down with a splat! The radio was one of the highlights of the game, with various radio stations filled with Maxis-made music, but the best parts were the hilarious joke commercials. As long as you don’t mind imperfection, this game is comical, challenging, and just straight up fun, especially if you use a city you made in SimCity 2000.
Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri (1999)
A turn-based 4X game developed by Firaxis Games and designed by Sid Meier, behind the hugely successful Civilization strategy game series. You can tell it’s similar to Civilization II as it uses the same engine, but gameplay-wise, Alpha Centauri is vastly more complex than any of the Civilization games, especially the recent ones. The game is best played with the Alien Crossfire expansion, making Alpha Centuari a mind-blowing experience. A United Nations intergalactic spaceship named “Unity” launched through the “space victory” in Civilization finally arrives at Alpha Centauri in the 22nd century. Various human factions vying for control over humanity’s future set down on the planet Chiron. The different factions have different specialties, and are led by various leaders, such as the ship’s security officer Colonel Santiago who leads the militaristic “Spartan Federation,” the xenobiologist Lady Skye who leads the nudist tree-hugging “Gaia’s Stepdaughters,” or the ship’s chaplain Sister Godwinson who leads the fanatical “Lord’s Believers.” The planet is not dead, and is covered in alien lifeforms and fungus, and as you further your research, you start to unravel the mystery of the planet and its life forms, allowing you to either use or destroy them. The game plays like other Civilization games, building cities, tile improvements, and units while engaging in diplomacy, exploration, warfare, research, and expansion, but what really sets this game apart is its depth in customization and complexity. Various tiles have different levels or rainfall or wind, but these can be modified by terraforming, raising and lowering the terrain or planting forests. Terraforming can also create or destroy land bridges between continents or you can drop a nuke to achieve the same results, although this will greatly anger other factions. If you and other players cause too much pollution, the sea levels will begin to rise, irrevocably shaping the map. The game also allows you to customize the units you build, choosing a chassis and adding different weapons, defenses, and power plants. No other strategy game has come close to the level of interaction and complexity that Alpha Centauri provides, and the game truly is a must-play classic even today.