Jul 1, 2010

Desert Island Disks

Imagine yourself stranded on a tiny salty island of the Pacific with nobody to talk to, no access to the Internet, no way to communicate with the rest of mankind, no smoked salmon delivery service, no books, no sex toys, nothing but a super-computer-console emulator thingy that could play each and every game ever. Now, imagine you weren’t an anti-social sociopath. Wouldn’t that be dreadful? Of course it would. You’d hate the place.

Anyway. Having established the setting, would you now be so kind and imagine you were foresighted enough to have brought some of your dearest games with you so as to, you know, sort of ease the pain of boredom? Great! What would them games be? Too shy to speak, huh? Well, suit yourself dear reader (better yet leave a comment), but here are my Desert Island Disks (CDs/DVDs too), all selected for their endurance, in a a feature inspired by the excellent Retro Gamer magazine.

Sid Meier’s Civilization IV

Sid Meier’s Civilization IVNot as groundbreaking as its esteemed grandfather, I’ll give you that, but definitely the pinnacle of the ever-evolving Civ series and a game I believe I could play forever. Well, provided I have some mods within reach. Still, trying to beat it at the toughest setting, experimenting with a variety of tactics, playing the tons of available scenarios (random or not), reflecting on human progress, preparing never-to-be-published attacks on its mechanistic understanding of societies and living out megalomaniac fantasies should be both highly enjoyable and appropriately time consuming. Even in solitude and without the multiplayer aspect of the game. Then, should the rescuers really take their time, there’s the excellent editor/modding tools to get creative with.

Elite Plus

Elite PlusElite was huge, brilliant and a smash hit that all but dominated the home computing scene. It sported gazillions of planets to visit and/or exploit, the option to play anything from a space-pirate, to a bounty hunter, to a lawful trader and -importantly- provided with some rare opportunities at daydreaming. Shockingly, this amazing space-sim-opera of a game hasn’t aged a day. Well, ok, one day. Elite Plus cunningly updated the graphics to glorious 16-bit quality, without touching the core game and is thus the marginally better choice. Freeware remake Oolite is also excellent, but I'd rather have boxed copies on my island.

Day of the Tentacle

Day of the TentacleAdventures, my favorite genre, are unfortunately ill-suited for the desert island environment, what with their total lack of replayability. A shame, for Monkey Island would have been so appropriate. Thankfully, though, it’s been over 10 years since I last touched Day of the Tentacle and I’m bound to have forgotten most of the puzzles. Besides, there’s the full version of Maniac Mansion -one of the few Lucasarts games I have never finished- included as a game within a game. Oh, and as far as adventure games go, this is one of the best. Tim Schafer designed it you know.

Championship Manager 97/98

Championship Manager 97/98Unless you have actually played Championship Manager (or Football Manager after them corporate people got it all mixed up) you just can’t understand the sheer brilliance of this coach/manager sim. It’s the only game that, while being as utterly realistic as it is, can keep you up till 6 o’ clock in the morning chain-smoking yourself to the next division. Or the Championship League finals. If you love football, you’ll love CM, and if you love CM you'll love the perfectly balanced 97/98 edition.

Diablo II & expansion pack

Diablo III wouldn’t really call Diablo or its sequel a true CRPG, but I would definitely describe both of them as extremely addictive, time-consuming, fun and oddly atmospheric games. Oh, yes, and as action heavy hack-and-slash offerings set in a dark and horribly clich├ęd fantasy world featuring many nasty little (and pretty huge) devils too. Then there are them randomly generated levels and the huge variety of enemies, weapons, spells, you name it, that make sure the Diablos last more than roughly a dozen of your average FPSs. Obviously Diablo II is the better game, whereas Lord of Destruction is a typically brilliant Blizzard expansion. On the other hand, I might just go for Ron Gilbert's forthcoming Deathspank.

Heroes of Might & Magic III

Heroes of Might & Magic IIII must have wasted quite a bit of my life on this one already, but nevertheless I’m sure I could waste a bit more. Especially if stranded on a bloody island. Heroes of Might and Magic III, you see, a game I usually spell Heroes of Might and Magick for some peculiar reason, is a superb turn-based strategy affair, that is incredibly simple to get into and incredibly difficult to master. HOMM III is played on three levels (World exploration/strategic - City/resource management - Battlefield/tactical level) and happily excels at each one. Also sports tons of missions to beat. Failing to grab a copy of it (quite impossible as I own at least three), I guess I could settle for the admittedly decent HOMM V, even though I still prefer my 2D graphics. HOMM IV is just despicable, mind you.

Sensible World of Soccer

Sensible World of SocceSimply the best version of the best footie game ever and something you really have to play on an Amiga to truly appreciate. The pace is just right, the game actually feels like playing -not watching- football, the stylized graphics are pure genius and SWOS goes as far as to provide with an expanded team management bit. Probably needs a classic, sturdy digital joystick too, you know, for the complete experience. Infinitely replayable, despite the fact I can easily win the Euro Cup with Malta.

TIE Fighter

TIE FighterWing Commander was great, X-Wing was better and TIE Fighter is simply above anything else. Getting to play the bad guy -with an option for joining the order of the abominably nasty- while flying one of those highly maneuverable though totally shield-less TIE thingies, was a fantasy come true and one I’m eager to relive. Happily, I haven’t played the thing for ages either, so I guess it should last me for a good 50-60 hours, what with its training missions, dozens of historic battles and three (if I remember correctly) pretty hefty campaigns. I could of course go for its Collector's Edition, that comes packed with extra missions and spaceships.

The Lost Treasures of Infocom

The Lost Treasures of InfocomIt's a compilation, I know, but I wouldn't call picking this one cheating. It was after all sold as one hefty old-fashioned box, and comes with enough reading material to make me happy for a week. It also sports 20 of the best, most difficult and most captivating text adventures ever produced, that could last anyone a lifetime, especially if those handy hint guides were misplaced.

Related @ Gnome's Lair:


  1. Great list, I will have to create one myself, too. Now, if I could make a couple of comments:

    HoMM III was the best of the series - ambiance, music, atmosphere, 2d art. Oddly enough, my gf loves IV. Can't see why, but then again, she looks at me strangely when I play 8 bit games, so that makes us even.

    DotT is great, period. I have never completed it, but the humour was excellent.

    Diablo II, well, I have an issue with it. Somehow it lost the dark, claustrophobic atmosphere of Diablo I - at least for me. Tried it, got bored, deleted it. I am looking forward to Diablo III, though, looks very promising.

    Also: no smoked salmon and no sex toys? NOOO!!!

  2. Can't really disagree with you on Diablo II, though I feel it currently is the best overall game of its kind, thus a serious candidate for the island.

    As for the salmon and the toys, I'm afraid it is so. Sounds dreadful, I know...

  3. I forgot to mention that I am not in the slightest objective: I loved the first Diablo to death and I have finished the game four or five times already, including he hardest difficulty settings.

  4. I don't see enough retro love given to the Infocom games these days so I was happy to see that included. Might consider the Masterpieces compilation since it has 13 more games with just one glaring omission - Hitchhiker... but Leather Goddesses of Phobos in there to soften the blow.

  5. You're right, Infocom has to be remembered and loved. Which reminds me, I actually have to check the Masterpieces Collection too.

  6. Good list. Completely agree with Civ IV, which has to be the #1 game for just about anyone on the Desert Island scenario. Diablo II is probably an inevitable choice, as well. And you just KNOW I'm down for Infocom.

    I played... last year's(?) Football Manager, and got frustrated with the coaching aspect. Seemed like you had to switch your formation tactics way too often, especially for someone as unfamiliar with football as myself. I'd replace that choice with either FIFA 10 or Sammy Sosa High Heat Baseball. Or maybe even MLB The Show.

    I never played TIE Fighter, so I'd replace it with whatever version of Wing Commander had the FMV scenes with Mark Hammil. That game stomped on my 7th grade social life and ground it into dust.

    I guess I'm going to have to come up with my own list, now. Sigh.

  7. Well, Bill, I believe you should come up with a list and you really should try TIE Fighter. It's an amazing game, it is.

    Totally agree on the FM front too. It's gone way too complicated to simply enjoy. The thing feels like work and definitely not my kind of fun.

    As for me FIFA is right out I'm afraid. never cared much for 3D footie. Wing Commander on the other hand was indeed excellent. And Privateer.

    Oh, and thanks for the kind words!

  8. Nice idea! My list would probably include Transport Tycoon as well, but this is definitely a nice lineup of games.

    Oh, and also, would be amusing to add this to one's list:


  9. Hehe, yes, Stranded would be fine indeed. Also a strong incentive to actually go m-m-mmmmad.

  10. Once again, your impeccable taste in video games shines through, Gnomey! I'm loving the inclusion of TIE Fighter, what a game that was! Is there a version compatible that runs on modern PCs? I tried a few years ago, but it wouldn't run natively (Vista/XP) and ran really slow on DosBox. I had to make do with X-Wing Alliance, which just isn't the same.

    I like Desert Island Disk lists, as it's never a straight forward favourites list. You have to take into account replayability, longevity. With that in mind here are mine:

    1. Championship Manager 93 - I love the simplicity of this. Basically, you just buy players, pick your team and away you go. I got bored later in the series when you were asked to choose your striker's haircut etc.
    2. Frontier: Elite 2 - So much to do in this massive universe, maybe I could eventually learn how to be an effective hit-man and earn that elusive 'Elite' status.
    3. Settlers II - Campaign mode lasts for days in this engrossing strategy game, let alone the free skirmish mode.
    4. IK+ - I don't want all my games to be deep-thinking strategy fests. Sometimes I just want to punch people in the nuts.
    5. Elder Scrolls 3 (4?): Morrowind - A massive, rich world to get lost in and learn anew through the eyes of each race and class.

    Wow, that's possibly the longest comment I've ever written! I need to click publish now before I change my mind on these...

  11. Well, thank you for an impressively long comment and the kind words then, dear Marc.

    Actually, I enjoy those Desert Island lists for the same reason, though admittedly I do prefer the attached Retro Gamer article with an important gaming figure, but one can't have everything it seems.

    Also seems our tastes are pretty similar too, as Morrowind (it's 3 I think) is indeed the best Bethesda game ever.

  12. Yes, Morrowind was great, neither its predecessors or Oblivion stood a chance. Sadly, because Oblivion was pretty, but I largely prefer good story and ambiance than pretty visuals.

  13. And let's not forget that absolutely huge Morrowind world. Think I'll install it again soon.

  14. Man, Day of the Tentacle (and Maniac Mansion for that matter) was such a fantastic time in gaming.

    TIE Fighter was such a special title. It had fantastic gameplay and atmosphere. That and I could actually use my mouse to steer. There was some intense mouse movement going on during a many a dog fight.

  15. Intense mouse movement, I'm actually aching to relive dear Gameolio, though this time with a fancy joystick. No, really!