Dec 29, 2008

Under (Not So) Heavy Construction

As you might have noticed this blog is currently being shaped into its new unholy form. Things will change and be unstable for a while (as long as this post still exists). Please be patient for a few hours and do stick around. All will be better soon.

Update: The main part of what I had in mind is now in place. Still, a lot of things have to be done, fixed, changed, tweaked and added, but -fortunately- the blog is back to being as operational as any Death Start could ever hope to be.

Resonance Posterized

Happy? Intrigued? Bemused? Lost? Nostalgic? Slightly horny? Ready to click on things? Click here.

Dec 24, 2008

Ideas and Suggestions

Don't know if I mentioned this before, but I'm really working on a drastic update of Gnome's Lair, that will include changes of the aesthetic sort, some brand new content and a slight reorganization of, err, stuff (and sorts). Now, while things are being done in the background, I'd truly appreciate any ideas, suggestions etc you dear lovable people might have to offer. Is there anything you'd like to see changed/added/removed/whatevered from the blog?

Dec 22, 2008

Cthulhu Remakes Commonplace Retro Books And Asks For Nothing

While I was slaving away in the dungeons of Notblogging, the excellent Retro Remakes team brought mankind the aptly named Retro Remakes Competition 2008, whereas the sinister lot behind TIG Source unleashed the Lovecraft inspired entries to the Commonplace Book Competition. Now, I obviously lacked the time to play through all those lovely and quite freeware games, but I can at least comment on a few. Here goes:

This Cursed Rock is a beautifully pixel-art illustrated arcade-adventure-platfromer with an interesting story and a distinctly Lovecraftian mood. Haven't quite finished it yet, but I'm pretty sure this is a loose adaptation of the Call of Cthulhu short story trilogy and -at the same time- an obvious labour of love. Highly polished and playable too.

Deathchase, obviously a remake of ZX Spectrum classic 3D Deathchase, is simply brilliant. Potentialy better than the original too, what with it sporting an intuitive and extremely well-thought of control method and a sense of speed the Speccy just couldn't manage. All it needs are a few touches and Deathchase will be the ultimate tree-avoiding simulator.

Herbert West, that well-known fictional character we'd all love to employ as an animateur, is also starring in the visually stunning, definitely innovative and quite tough Carrion Re-animating. The game has been put together in an obviously very professional way, has a few great touches of humour and -I'm afraid- could use slightly better controls. Then again, I never managed to shine at Night Shift either.

Insomnia is another tough one, but you can be assured that controls wont be your problem. This is a highly atmospheric, yet heavily action oriented, offering that will remind you of the hardest days of the 8-bit era and show you just how difficult and frantic a platformer can be. Brilliant and well-written too.

The Empire Strikes Back. Yes, a remake of the original arcade obviously and one of the best Star Wars games to hit the PC during the last decade. You have to try it. Really have to. Highly playable and ridiculously addictive. Could use an online leaderboard, mind.

Death Lights Dancing. Interesting, quirky, heavy on atmosphere, not quite playable. If anyone cares for a mouse-driven row-simulator in a dark setting, well, be my guest. Surely a great idea is hidden in this still unpolished effort.

Ultimate Bruce Lee. Simply the ultimate version of the ultimate platform-fighter that was Bruce Lee on the 8-bits. Two new jaw-dropping graphical re-interpretations, an almost faithful remake of the original, fantastic music, a ton of unlockable new modes and excellent controls turn this into a truly brilliant remake. Which I love. Apparently.

Dec 20, 2008

New, indie, shiny, yet so very retro

Ahh, an almost proper post for an almost fully revived blog. Feels quite nice you know. Even more so when it's a post about them three latest additions to what can only be described as the Gnome's Lair link pool, presented in stirct order of discovery, exactly as any retro indie blog should do.

So, let's start with Matty's aptly named Matty on Games, shall we? It is after all a relatively young and excellently written blog on indie games, retro games, and -maybe- some other stuff too. Other stuff, that is, that happily range from a review of a truly obscure Atari ST game on grandads to Willy's Weirdy Nightmare. Oh, and ZX Spectrum and strategy gaming lovers will also find more than enough articles to cater to their (very special indeed) needs.

The Joy of Sticks, on the other hand, is a retro gaming blog with a strong indie side and an unhealthy obsession with all things Atari ST, that sports some excellent writing. It is thus totally dissimilar to Matty's effort, despite also being the home of the utterly impressive Great Atari ST Game Survey; a definitve top 50 ST games list as voted over four of the better gaming forums.

Now, to round things up and add a splash of variety to your online reading, you should also, oh wise reader, visit Just One More Game too. It is, you see, a blog, it has a strong retro side, doesn't ignore the odd indie offering, finds coin-ops amusing and is shockingly enough truly well written. Game on and some Retro Remakes 08 coverage seem like the places to start.

Dec 18, 2008

I guess I'm back!

No, really. Just finished printing the -admittedly first- draft of my dissertation and, well, now I'm back. Properly so. Nice, isn't it? And wait till you see me blogging on games (well, mostly) from revolting Athens... How very surreal, sad and inspiring. Anyway. Time to start working on that promised redesign of the Lair. Cheers everyone!

Dec 10, 2008

A look from the papers

That's the front page of the widest read Greek newspaper. The title reads "Goodbye Alexis" and right under it, painted on Syntagma square in front of the parliament is what's on everyone's lips: "15 years old dead. 6/12. Cops - Pigs - Murderers". The police on the other hand prefer to show their remorse and prove what a lovable caring lot they are by going for them rather more action-oriented shots:

Dec 7, 2008

When the state murders...

This kid, a 15 year old boy named Alexander, was brutally murdered last night by the Greek police. He was shot straight to the heart for actually daring to talk back to a cop. Athens is already burning and so is the rest of the country. No cover up will do. The murderers and their colleagues will pay.

Sep 11, 2008

...entering hybernation mode...

I'm not sure anyone noticed, but I haven't been blogging that regularly lately. No, really. And it's not that I don't have things I'd like to write about either, as I'm actually full of silly gaming ideas, have discovered quite a few interesting oddities I'd like to share with you loveable lot and never really stopped keeping up with the less mainstream side of gaming news. No. Thing is, I just don't have the time nor -to be frank- the calmness needed to actually blog. At least not with the quality I've decided I should be aiming for. So... well, Gnome's Lair is entering a mode of hybernation, meaning I will be around checking my friends' blogs, answering comments and mails, but won't be actually updating this blog with new content. I will, on the other hand, be able to post the odd Retro Treasure, as it's both easier to do and frankly more relaxing.

Mind you, Gnome's Lair will definitely be back sometime this December and will hopefully be much better (and possibly drastically redesigned) than ever. Now, if you will be kind enough to excuse me, I got a dissertation to finish.


Aug 30, 2008

DeathSpank: The Great Tease

DeathSpankRon Gilbert (may flowers sprout in his nostrils and bi-sexual angels serve him breakfast) has posted three video teasers for his hotly (well, in some odd aesthete circles at least) anticipated adventure/RPG DeathSpank. Click, watch them and fantasize about wearing the legendary thong of justice. Oh, and as the game has evolved enough to be coming soonerish, do expect to play it sometime during 2009.

Aug 24, 2008

Empire: Total War - A Trailer to cheer the Navy

Seems I'm back from my ultra-short though truly invigorating vacations and here's a lovely trailer about the forthcoming Empire: Total War strategy game to dampen the collective post-summer pain. The game should hit Europe the 6th of February 2009, feature some pretty impressive sea battles, impressive graphics and some intriguing references to the 1st French Revolution. Sounds lovely, doesn't it? Find out more over at and then, well, why not, have a look at my review of Medieval II: Total War.

Aug 10, 2008

Decker's Delight Links (11.Aug.08)

Haven't blogged that much lately, I know and I'm not that thrilled about it, but things were -still are, actually- slightly hectic and at times downright shit. Anyway. Here's another selection of fine gaming links to get you by till the Lair strikes back(s). Enjoy., that interesting yet mostly mainstream gaming site, has been nice enough to present us with Shrink Wrapped. It's a brilliantly illustrated piece on the history of PC game packaging trends (covering everything from Akalabeth to City of Heroes), it is. A nice retro start, eh?

On to Monkey Island 2 then, the greatest adventure game of all time, that just -well, relatively speaking- got itself an exhaustive feature over at the International House of Mojo. Expect a brilliant read on the quality of said classic, said classic, its history, its secrets and quite a bit on trivia.

For an insider's look at the admittedly, well, idiosyncratic history of Bullfrog try Alex Trowers' version. Available in two glorious parts: Part 1 and oddly Part 2.

Dear GameSetWatch, on the other hand, provided the internets with a smart and excellently written piece that only slightly has to do with gaming: Sex and Tetris. Unfortunately, none is explicitly described. Oh, and there's a bit on Subversive Games you might enjoy instead. I did.

Rock Paper Shotgun is always brilliant. You know it, I know it, we all generally know it. Read it. Daily. And do not forget to pay attention to some older posts like The Stalin vs. Martians Interview and the glorious (and extra-handy) Planescape Landscapes. Oh, oh, and Word Play of course.

Remember the excellent freeware text-adventure that was Gun Mute? Good. You can now grab its latest version and a ton of extras while peeking at its design notes here. Courtesy of Pacian and his Space Cat Rocket Ship.

Further interactive fiction fun can be had with Milliways: Infocom's Unreleased sequel to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Learn why it was never made, play the unfinished versions, have a look inside Infocom and don't miss the comments.

TIG Source, always the source and inspiration of top quality indie games, presents (presented more like it) the results of the rather impressive and wildly innovative Procedural Generation Competition Results. Dig in and then move on to the next compo.

Now, after trying the latest version of War Twat, do let Oddbob speak on adventure games and let the man that makes the cops look bad guide you to an excellent freebie. Behold Zombies, Cows and a Sponge.

Edge, the gaming site of the gaming mag, has a gaming feature on Sega's oddest game ever: Segagaga or SGGG. Probably the finest Dreamcast game around and an imaginative love letter Sega sent itself.

For the few tabletop gamers still visiting the lair, here are some links to keep you playing away from your computers: Of Dice and Men, the Warhammer retrospective and the reviews of them Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition books.

Time for the mystery link: The Ultimate Software Gold Plating by Coding Horror. Care for a hint? Here are two: Jeff Minter, Atari Jaguar.

Some relatively random Quick Links:

Jul 18, 2008

The Spectrum Games Bible 1982-2008

the spectrum games bibleHaving already missed the apparently excellent ZX Spectrum Book - 1982-19xx book, I'm more than excited to have been timely informed about the incredibly ambitious Spectrum Games Bible 1982-2008 project, that's already spanning two books and covering more than 500 games. What's more, at least four more books will soon be released, hopefully reviewing every game ever released for the gloriously humble Speccy. Now, that's what I call ambition. Possibly a worthy cause too. Well, almost. Anyway.

To grab the extremely well priced first books (or their rather pricey colour counterparts) do yourselves a favour and follow this handily underlined link. Mind you, you can even contribute to the forthcoming volumes -this is most obviously a group project, you see- and, yes, actually get paid. Oh, oh, and for some free, online, high-score comparing ZX Spectrum gaming you have to give MySpeccy a try.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: re: Rex, the glory of Llamasoft, JSW: the patch, Vinyl Data and adventures on LPs

Jul 1, 2008

UT3: DM-Bagger

ut3 dm bagger ut iiiunreal tournament 3 deathmatch mod bagger dm-baggerPlay an Unreal Tournament III deathmatch on a huge excavator on Venus. On your PC or even PS3. By following this link and grabbing the appropriate mod. From the fertile mind that brought us the Fawlty Towers CS mod. Enjoy. Oh, yes, not in a talkative mood really.

Jun 27, 2008

The Ivy's lively Nanobots

nanobotsnanobots ivy agsI may be lacking the time for a proper review, but you simply have to know that Nanobots, an exquisite indie adventure game, has just been made available for download. Here and for free. Now, be reasonable, trust me, thank the nice lady who created it, make yourselves a favour and grab it. After all, Nanobots is an innovative and quirky point-and-click adventure, with beautiful graphics, a great soundtrack and an intriguingly cute plot brought to you by Erin 'Ivy' Robinsons of Spooks and Blackwell Unbound fame, with the help of Vince Twelve of xii games and Chris 'Scorposer' Moorson. What a team, eh?

And to quote in the most informative of ways:

Nanobots is a classic-style point and click adventure game that lets you control the six different robots as they race to save themselves from being turned into scrap metal. Can they make use of their surroundings, fashion an escape plan, and avoid coming face-to-fist with Professor Killfun? Only if they give peace a chance.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: Resonance screenshots, a bit of freeware Sam & Max, Adventure Speedruns, Space Quest IV

Jun 20, 2008

A few lovely free games against the heat

Summer's here, living in A/C conditions is as irritating as ever, a thousand things have to be done, international levels of alcohol are running low and all I can do is suggest a few -excellent if I may say so myself- freeware games. Well, anyway, that's something I guess.

Solar Vengeance 5: an impressively deep and polished game of interstellar conflict and conquest. Impressively, it also supports multiplayer gaming and if it weren't for TIG Source you (and obviously I) wouldn't have spotted it.

War Twat: the naughty sounding arena shooter that's for free. Also feels quite a bit like a Robotron-Geometry Wars hybrid on mind-melting drugs, is addictively hard and an all around excellent game. Looks great too.

Space Shot: the procedurally generated shmup that sports incessant swearing and nasty rectangles. Realistically boring and mostly vacant bits of space are also included. Oh, and should you care for more procedurally generated games try this selection of compo games.

Ant Attack: the first isometric 3D game ever in its original format and in all its survival horror glory. That is, on a brilliantly online emulated ZX Spectrum courtesy of the game creator. It hasn't aged a day...

ForumWarz: the funniest MMORPG possible. Ever. No, really. You just have to try being a camwhore for a while. ForumWarz is the Internet (in game form).

Immortality: an existential puzzler about, well, immortality apparently. Smart, intriguing, visually interesting and even quite a bit enjoyable too. Oh, and it's another Indie Games discovery.

Quest for Yrolg: an excellent point-and-click fantasy adventure as suggested by SSH's equally excellent AGS blog. Quest for Yrolg by Crystal Shard (of A Tale of Two Kingdoms fame), beside its other qualities, also let's you be the bad guy's henchman, in what can only by described as the anti-Quest for Glory experience.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: 100 excellent free games, Sim Junta & 1821, Pac-TXT, the Commonplace Book Project

Jun 13, 2008

The porny side of gaming

Having already brought you some of the sickest pictures of gaming, and in what could only be described as a stylistic U-turn, I've now gone and touched on the subject of video game porn. This time though I've stupidly focused on using words. Oh well, nobody's perfect I suppose and you can still pay the old Cabaret a visit and read the aptly titled Oh video game pornography, where art thou?

Jun 11, 2008

Penny Arcade Adventures - Episode 1: On The Rain-Slick Precipice Of Darkness. Uhm, the demo.

Penny Arcade Adventures episode 1I could just tell everyone to immediately go and grab the demo of the rather verbosely titled Penny Arcade Adventures - Episode 1: On The Rain-Slick Precipice Of Darkness, for it is an excellent and truly funny demo, but, frankly, I'll try not to be that lazy. Well, not again that is. I will instead attempt to elaborate; convince you even of the greatness of the thing and humbly suggest you should probably buy yourselves the full version. It is after all available for everything a PC gamer could care for: Windows, Mac, Linux and Xbox 360.

Oh, and please do bear in mind that I've only tried the demo -not enough time/money those last few days I'm afraid- of the game and thus can't comment on some issues other reviewers have mentioned, such as Penny Arcade's rumored lack of length. Hopefully, I will eventually get to play through the full version -and appropriately comment on such grave matters, though, and in case you really have to research before investing your 20$, you'd better have a look at a few professional reviews. Anyway. On with the rant.

The first thing I have to admit, is that the Penny Arcades Episode 1 (hence PA) demo is a thoroughly successful demo, as it both manages to show off every key aspect of the game and leave you wanting for more. And where I say wanting, well, I mean craving.

So, what's so great about it? For starters, it's a game by the Penny Arcade duo with the assistance and direction of the great Ron Gilbert. It is thus a genuinely funny, beautiful and well designed offering. What's more, the thing's innovative too. And starts you off with the creation of your wacky in-game persona in 3D, which impressively also spawns a 2D version of itself to be used where appropriate (i.e. cutscenes). Here's a crude example:

On The Rain-Slick Precipice Of DarknessMultidimensional cartoon visuals aside, PA is an interesting and highly playable RPG/adventure hybrid, that manages to let gamers explore, fight and wade through Monkey Island-esque dialog only with their mouse and the space button, in what must be the most impressively intuitive new interface I've encountered the last ten or so years. The fact that said interface is presented to you via an in-game tutorial of sorts, that is seamlessly integrated with the core game, and even sports an utterly hilarious voice-over, does help quite a bit too.

Then again, the humour, acting quality, art-direction and of course the artwork itself are constantly impressive throughout the demo (and its stunning cutscenes). Touches of Gilbert's properly interactive humour are also apparent, even though this is something that is mostly based on the Penny Arcade sort of jokes and situations. I love them, but that's a personal thing.

Further satisfying aspects of the demo -and apparently the game- include a lovably absurd Lovecraftian plot, a ton of little touches, excellent gameplay mechanics, a quasi turn-based combat system that actually works, a thousand things to click on, fantastic dialog and what I (and shockingly the developers) refer to as The Office. That is the hub where a ton of unlockables (movies, LPs, etc), bits of info, case-files, collectibles and... err... the game-map can be accessed. Have a look, I'll have some sleep instead:

Related @ Gnome's Lair: Stalin vs Martians, DeathSpank, The 2007 AGS Awards, Rex: a ZX Spectrum classic

May 19, 2008

The Zenobi Software Loading Screens

bulbo zenobi speccy loading screenblack tower zenobi zx spectrum loading screenZenobi Software, besides coming up with hundreds of excellent text-adventures, did also manage to provide ZX Spectrum gamers with some equally beautiful and brilliantly evocative loading screens. Just like the couple posted above really, and if you care for more (you should) do follow this artsy flickr link. You'll find quite a few slightly magnified Zenobi loading screens and I can guarantee there will soon be more. Well, after I get back from the island of Lesvos that is (hopefully some time next week).

Related @ Gnome's Lair: Rochdale Balrog Interview, the 2007 AGS Awards, Resonance screens, EGM issue #1

May 18, 2008

X-Wing brings about The New Jedi Order

While browsing through the International House of Mojo and reminiscing about the heroic times I had piloting TIE Fighters and X-Wings against each other, I shockingly ran into this, this being the particularly impressive New Jedi Order mod for X-Wing Alliance (a game I recently blogged about elsewhere). Then I was happy. For quite a while, really, until I noticed that despite the 293 MBs of free Star Wars goodness I still couldn't find a joystick. Oh well...

As you dear readers are hopefully better equipped, allow me to explain why you just have to download The New Jedi Order: it's brilliant, shiny, comes complete with cutscenes, a full voice cast, new campaigns and missions, sports new music, is absolutely freeware and even takes place after the movies. Mind you, besides the actual X-Wing Alliance game you'll also be needing its 2.02 patch, witch you can easily download from this place. Now, go play.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: Quake in 32-bits of colour, System Shock 2 2k7, The Kipper and the Corpse, Savage 2

May 16, 2008

a few gnomish questions / The Balrog of Zenobi

Zenobi Software, the Rochdale Balrog, the Cat and the Cockroach were responsible for over two hundred excellent -nay, classic- ZX Spectrum text-adventures. Oh, yes, and quite a few Atari ST ones too. What's more, John Wilson -a.k.a. the Balrog- the man behind it all is here to enlighten you and me on how things happened and what the future holds. Read on, hop over to the lovely official Zenobi website, grab a DVD with its rich retro offerings, ask for a freebie and come back here to discuss retro 8-bit interactive fiction. After all Zenobi will feature heavily on this blog for quite some time.
Zenobi Software Loading Screens ZX Spectrum1. Tell us a bit about yourself, oh Balrog. Some info on the cat might be nice too.

Fast approaching my 62nd birthday, I was born in Edinburgh (Scotland) in 1947 and moved to South Wales (Cwmbran) at the age of 12. Lived there for a few years and then moved to North Wales (Flint) before enlisting in the Royal Air Force in 1964. Served in various places... as far apart as Valley (Anglesey) and Seletar (Singapore) before settling down in Rochdale in 1970 where I still live to this day. As for the 'cat' that is simply one of my many 'alter-egos'... now, that is a 'first' for you and your readers, as I have never admitted to that before. 'Cat' is a good one, unlike 'Cockroach' who is an evil, mischievous little sod.

2. Why -and more importantly, how- did you start Zenobi? Were you all alone in this, erm, adventure of sorts?

Had been unemployed for a number of years and during a 'careers interview' I blurted out 'To run a software house' in answer to one of their questions. Being me, I decided to stick with that choice and Zenobi Software was formed in 1984/85. Like everything in my life, since I met her, my Ann was with me in this enterprise. Without her help I would never have made the success of Zenobi Software that it was ... if it ever was a 'success'.

3. And the focus on text-adventures on the ZX Spectrum? How did you decide on that?

Because they were what I was 'into' at the time. I had been given a ZX81 by a mate and then 'upgraded' to a ZX Spectrum ... the only things that seemed reasonable to play on these machines were 'text adventures' (the arcade games did not appeal) so those became my passion.

4. Weren't you afraid of actually competing against bigger software houses?

I am never afraid of a challenge and to be quite honest I never envisaged myself as being in 'competition' with anybody. The whole idea of the project was simply to get MY games out to the general public. Things just got out of hand a touch and grew far bigger than I ever imagined.

5. You've created a fair amount of admittedly brilliant, tough, inspired and generally hilarious adventures. Which ones are you favorites? Was there a certain way your games were designed? I mean, really, where did all this inspiration come from?

Of them all, the original 'Behind Closed Doors' has to be my favourite, if only for the fact that it was written, tested and finalised in less than 24 hours. However ALL of them are my 'children' and just as in real-life I never choose favourites.

6. How did you come up with those intricate puzzles?

Pinched all the ideas from 'real-life' incidents. All it takes is a little imagination and you can convert anything into an 'adventure-situation'. Alas, I am very lucky to have the kind of mind that can come up with 'ideas' without too much thinking... I used to dream them up as I typed them sometimes.

7. What about them weird names, settings, loading screens and stories?

They are all part of the twisted mind that I have been blessed with... that and the ability to 'bend' things to suit. Give me a 'topic' and I can generally sit down and just type out a story (complete with characters, plot, descriptions etc) and do all this as I go along. Much in the same way that I am typing out this interview. No preparation, just 'flying by the seat of my pants' as my old Dad would say.

8. Now, as Zenobi published quite a few games from a variety of authors/designers, could you give us some insight as to how this bit actually worked?

Simple... I was unable to produce enough games (personally) to meet the demand, so decided to use the services of other authors to meet the quota. I spread the word I was on the lookout for new games and they just came flooding in.

9. In retrospect, which would you say were the finest moments in/of Zenobi?

Getting the first game-review published ('The Boggit' in PCW), being awarded 'Mega-game' status in Your Sinclair and being voted 'Best Software House' (the FIRST time).

10. Why stop after the Atari ST games?

It was no longer a viable proposition to produce NEW games for either the ZX Spectrum or the Atari ST . 'Sales' were no longer high enough to warrant the financial outlay and I felt that it was stupid to keep squandering my OWN cash on a losing cause.

11. Any other platforms you developed for?

Not really, though we did produce 'emulations' of ALL the original ZX Spectrum titles to suit the Commodore Amiga, Mac, PC, Sam Coupe and QL. Not to mention every form there was of the ZX Spectrum... i.e. Plus D, +3, Tape etc.

12. Oh, and do you still play games? Any thoughts on their current state?

Nope... my real passion has always been music and these days my spare time is spent listening to that. My CD collection numbers in the 'tens' of thousands... you can believe that or not!!

13. Considering there is a strong Spectrum retro scene, a very lively interactive fiction scene and an obvious revival of the adventure genre, well, what does the future hold? More games? A book per-chance?

None of the above. I still write the odd short-tale, but they are either just for my own amusement (and end up in the desk-drawer) or else they get put on the web-site where they bore everybody to death. Though I have promised myself that one day I will bring the 'Korat' tale to its eventual conclusion... if only for my own peace of mind

14. Finally, you do still feel the Zenobi love, don't you? Mind you, feel free to add anything else you think would be vaguely appropriate and/or titillating.

The 'Zenobi Love' .. just what the f*ck is that? Zenobi Software was a part of my life, is still a part of my life and always will be a part of my life - it has nothing to do with 'love' it was (and still is) the 'driving-force' behind my existence.

It was a dark rainy night and Balrog was slumped over a plate of mince & tatties when there was a gentle 'tap' on the kitchen door. "Bloody visitors .. and at this time of night as well!" growled Balrog as he flicked the errant pea(s) back on to his plate and shuffled off in the direction of the knock. "John Wilson ?" enquired the chubby-faced gent stood in the pouring rain. "Come in Tam .." grinned the Balrog and ushered the gent, and his companion, into the warmth of the kitchen. "How do you know me?" asked the gent. "Saw your picture in PCW when you were awarded the prize for completing 'The Ket Trilogy' smiled Balrog, flicking on the switch for the kettle and reaching under the worktop for some cups. "Tea or coffee and how many sugars ??"

So it was that 'Tartan Tam' encountered the Balrog for the first time ... a true story!!"

Related @ Gnome's Lair: Peter Favaro / Alter Ego interview, Gun Mute, Text is King, Rex on the ZX Spectrum

May 14, 2008

Skin & Bones reminds me of the Amiga

Skin & BonesIt's been almost a week since I played through the truly enjoyable and immensely colourful demo of the newly released Skin & Bones offering, and, well, I thought I'd let you know. It is, after all and as far as I can judge, a lovely platform/puzzle game with a distinct retro 16-bit feel to it and two playable characters. Definitely one to bring back those memories from the Amiga era, then, though should you try it, you'll probably notice the obvious Head over Heels influences too. Worth a try.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: Circulate the review, Civ IV dark fantasies, Savage 2- A Tortured Soul, DeathSpank!

May 7, 2008

Warhammer: the 25 years video retrospective

Amazingly it has already been 25 years since Warhammer started destroying lives, wallets, relationships etc and yet we still love it. Apparently the excellent people of the Miniatures Wargaming Union love it quite a bit more and to the extent of actually producing the above -frankly amazing- videos. Watch and learn kids, watch and learn. Then click here.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: re: WHFB & 40 Bitz, 7th edition FAQs, The Chaos Dwarfs, Brickwars LEGO wargaming

May 1, 2008

Deitrix Artworks uncovers the true nature of gnomes

Beautiful isn't it? And grand. Quite a bit disturbing too and also the central piece of artwork for my vaguely planned redesign of Gnome's Lair. Oh, and, yes, it's another impressive creation of long time mate and lair denizen Deitrix, who tends to love coming up with stuff to visually impress the web masses. Find out more about the man and his work over at the excellent Deitrix Artworks blog.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: The Call of Cthulhu, Fallout 2 Bondage, on gnome punt, remembering the Lost Lair

Apr 28, 2008

Stalin Vs. Martians and the 4th Five Year Plan

StalinNope, we won't be discussing Stalin today children, so please do behave and try to stop acting shocked, as all we will be talking about will be games about Stalin, or, to be precise, the two games about Stalin I'm aware of. Right? Right! Excellent, then.

The first game is the appropriately freeware Stalin's Dilemma by famed strategy game designer and SUNY College history teacher Ed Bever. You can download it via the Home of the Underdogs, marvel at its impressive historical accuracy, revel in its intricate socio-economic model and start implementing 5-year plans while preparing for the Nazi invasion, as this is a turn-based game about Soviet economic development between 1928-42. Apparently doing a better -and less brutal- job than Stalin did is nigh on impossible...

Stalin Vs Martians RTSStalin Vs. Martians, on the other hand, a forthcoming piece on applied wargaming surrealism by three whole Russian development studios, seems to be aiming for a slightly less realistic take on Stalin. And it starts exactly where Dilemma ends too (i.e. in 1942), when the infamous invasion of colorful aliens began, though nobody noticed or seems to remember. The game, a humorous 3D RTS of sorts, will probably be available very soon and you can find out all there is to it by following this humblest of revolutionary links. Oh, and here's a rather interesting bit from the game's official FAQ:

Vopros: Can we play as Stalin himself?
Otvet: Yes, but not from the start. Stalin is our commander and he gives us orders. Closer to the grand finale he will appear on the battlefield as a playable unit - a huge colossus, five times higher than any other creature. Just like it was in real life.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: the freeware Icehole games, Age of Decadence interview, Aquaria, Тургор: a dark and surreal adventure

Apr 24, 2008

The habitat of the Dungeons & Dragons CRPG

Pool of Radiance TSR Gold BoxYes, well, as you might have noticed I'm not updating Gnome's Lair as regularly as I used to -neither of course as regularly as I would like to, but this definitely doesn't mean I have no more gaming nonsense to share with mankind. Au contraire... All I lack is the necessary free time, not the ideas. Hopefully though my just published Top 10 D&D CRPGs feature post over at the excellent Dungeon Mastering RPG blog will both keep you entertained and prove I've not lost interest in gaming. Cheers!

Related @ Gnome's Lair: The Orb of Dilaaria, Remember Llamasoft?, Wii retro gaming, Knights of the Dinner Table for free

Apr 21, 2008

Grab the first issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly in glorious PDF & CBZ

Electronic Gaming Monthly EGM issue 1 coverThose lovable retro gaming maniacs running, the premier resource for downloadable retro magazines, have gone and done something particularly impressive. Yes, again, and as you might have already read over at dear racketboy's they have scanned the historically important and immensely enjoyable premiere issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM) for our reading pleasure. What you might not know, though, is that -in pure Retromags tradition- we're talking about something more than a mere scan. We're talking about a version of EGM that has been touched up and enhanced to remove any sign of old age and only then masterfully packed into a 68-pages long PDF/CBZ file.

To download EGM #1 you can either use the torrent created by racketboy, go for the direct PDF download or grab the CBZ file. Better yet, visit Retromags and grab a few more retro mags while you're at it or even stay and lend a helping hand. The retro gaming community after all probably needs you too. Yes, even you.

EGM scanEGM #1 (May 1989) Table of Contents

Insert Coin (editorial) ...p.6
Top Ten Games ...p.8
Next Wave (short previews) ...p.8-11
Press Start (news) ...p.13-15
Letters to the Editor ...p.18
Contest ...p.19
At the Arcades (Atari Hard' Drivin' review) ...p.20
Game Gossip ...p.22
Preview '89 (the issue's main feature) ...p.23-29
16-Bit Sizzler (PC Engine, Mega Drive, SNES, Slipstream) ...p.30 & 62-63
Dare to Compare (Tecmo Bowl vs. Quarterback) ...p.31-33
1943 review (NES) ...p.40
Racket Attack review (NES) ...p. 41
Ultima Exodus review (NES) ...p.42
Bubble Bobble review (NES) ...p.43
Bump 'n' Jump review (NES) ...p.44
Y's review (Master System) ...p.45
Rastan Review (Master System) ...p.46
Time Soldiers review (Master System) ...p.48
Hat Trick review (Atari 7800) ...p.50
Tetris review (NES) ...p.51
F-19 Stealth Fighter review (PC) ...p.54
Zak McKracken review (PC) ...p.56
Hybris review (Amiga) ...p.57
Double Dragon review (C64) ...p.58
Sword of Shodan review (Amiga) ...p.60
Offshore Warrior review (Amiga) ...p.61
Game Over ...p.66

The complete guide to Taxan Games booklet

A short Retromags Interview with Phillyman

1. Who are you, oh retro loving giver of magazines?

I go by the name Phillyman, but the real name is Rob. I am 28 years old and got into video games early on in life; my first systems were an Atari 2600 and a NES. I grew up mostly playing Nintendo based systems, but I did have the Sega Channel...who here remembers that service? Anyways now I collect older games and systems. I am also a fanatic of Halo 2 and 3!

2. Care to share bits of the history behind Retromags?

I used to be a member on website named Through that website I found a group of people scanning video game manuals. I had always wanted to help out with the emulation community, and knowing that my programming skills are not good enough to create emulators, I had the idea to scan my old Nintendo Power magazines. We were going to originally be called, but a week later that domain name was taken. I then thought of the name Retromags because its more generic and doesn't tie us into just scanning Nintendo Power magazines.

3. Any significant future plans?

We are working towards a few goals right now, one of them being scanning the first 10 years of Electronic Gaming Monthly. Other goals we are looking to accomplish by the end of this year are putting together a final set of Nintendo Power issues 1-165. Oh and I would also love to get PSM issues 1-53 and Sega Visions 1-25 all scanned and released to the public. Goals for next year include providing the first 10 years of GamePro and the first 5 years of Next Generation magazine. Beyond that I am not sure..Gamefan and GameInformer maybe?

4. As for EGM issue 1, you must be quite proud, eh? How did you uncover this rarest of gems? Which parts of it did you enjoy the most?

The first issue of EGM has been on my hit list for the past 18 months or so, and through relentless searching on Ebay I finally found a copy for sale. I had to have it and placed a max bid of $100 on it...luckily I got it for around $37. I then took the $63 dollars saved and managed to snag EGM Issue 4, 8, 9 and 11 also! I think the best part of these magazines is really the advertisements, you can really get a feeling for the time the magazine was released in.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: A ton of free retro magazines, The DOOM Bible, ZX Spectrum's Rex, Mersey Remakes interview

Apr 14, 2008

Icehole brings gamers the gift of junta & revolution

Sim Junta 1821Icehole games, the Greek developers better known for World Basketball Manager and soon to achieve international stardom via the forthcoming political simulation Us & Them, have been all nice and released a couple of their older games as freeware. This means you can be playing both Sim Junta: Come be the Bastard and 1821 in a few minutes, provided of course you got a decent connection and are smart enough to figure out where to click.

Now, as 1821 is only available in Greek and -let's face it- the Greek audience of this blog isn't exactly gargantuan, let me focus on Sim Junta instead. It is, after all, a pretty deep statistical management/strategy game, that interestingly puts the player in the (stinky, imperialist) shoes of a dictator of a fictional country. Desperately trying to please ones American masters, avoiding being overthrown by revolutionary guerrillas and simultaneously making sure there's a constant flow of money from said country to a secret Swiss bank account is the object of the game. Knowing how to deal with a variety of social classes and interest groups the key. How very realistic, really. Great fun -in a thoughtful quasi-satirical manner- too!

Related @ Gnome's Lair: Basketball Manager for free, Gun Mute, Monty's Christmas Special, Prototype II: the shmup

Apr 5, 2008

The Orb of Dilaaria

It's nice to see that Wolfenstein 3D, the granddaddy of the modern FPS and the game that singlehandedly created the modding scene (as I enjoy mentioning), still has what it takes to attract some of the best modders around. Take The Orb of Dilaaria for example. It's an utterly impressive mod based on a vastly updated and heavily tweaked Wolf3D/Spear of Destiny engine, that spans 6 acts and over 60 maps, sports 20 different character types, offers an amazingly non-linear storyline and even takes place in a proper dark-fantasy setting.

On the techier side of things The Orb features parallax scrolling skies (!), ceilings, multi-textured and at times animated floors, rain effects, shading, fog and -yes- teleporters. What's more, as this is a stand-alone total conversion of Wolfenstein, you won't need the original game(s) to run it either. DOSbox or VDMsound might come in handy though.

To find out more on The Orb of Dilaaria and of course download your free copy, do try clicking yourselves over here and/or here.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: Wolfenstein 3D lives!, Introspect UT 2004, relive Quake in 32-bits, an updated Duke Nukem 3D

Mar 31, 2008

God of War: The Era of Machinima

Feel like getting creative with God of War? Machinima based on Sony's gaming hardware? A new voice for Kratos? And why is the salmon in doubt? Watch the video and all (/none) will be clear.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: Matthew Smith in FMV, John Cleese and his Compaq computers, State of Mind, HALO: Monty Python