Robert Wm. Gomez's

MS-DOS

Back when PC gaming was a nightmare of soundcards, memory management and color modes. Still, some of the best games ever were on MS-DOS first.

Crusader: No Remorse on MS-DOS (8/10)

Crusader Just Standing Around

In the 90s, I tried playing the demo of this game many times and could never really get into it. Crusader was one of the best looking PC games of its time and I really wanted to like it. But the controls. Oh my God, the controls. Eventually, this scheme would go on to be described as tank controls in other games like Resident Evil. Basically, you aim and move your character in relation to the direction their sprite is facing rather than the direction you want them to move on the screen. Crusader takes that counter-intuitive mechanic to a whole new level of complexity by adding jumping, diving and ducking to the mix.

There are some default mouse controls which almost work, but your character is stuck with gun drawn, shuffling around like a man with his pants around his ankles. I got about a third the way through the game doing that until just gave up and set the game aside for a while. Months later I returned and forced myself to learn the standard keyboard controls. These are still clunky, but with practice and a lot of help from the auto-aim feature the game becomes much more fast-paced and responsive. Even then, the mouse is still helpful when the occasional fast-spinning aiming is required. For the most part, it pays to just bite the bullet and learn the keyboard controls. Think of Crusader like Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing but with more explosions and incinerated humans.

Ultima VI: The False Prophet on MS-DOS (9/10)

Ultima 6 Chamber of Horrors

With the completion of VI, I'm getting close to having played all the games in the Ultima series. I own boxed copies of the Apple ][ versions of III–V, but when it came to VI, Origin switched to MS-DOS. In 1990 I was starting college, I didn't own a computer, let alone a PC, and, as the years passed, history became legend, legend became myth, and for two-and-a-half thousand years, the Ultima series passed out of all knowledge... or something like that.

In the late 90s I upgraded from an Apple IIgs to a Windows 95 PC and was reintroduced to the series via a soundcard bundled version of Ultima VIII: Pagan. That game was mediocre at best and it didn't finish it until years later—after I having played through a CD-ROM Classics version of Ultima VII. VII was a pain to get running on a Windows machine, but it was worth it. It truly is the precursor to modern, open-world RPGs like Skyrim in both its scope and richness of detail.

The False Prophet almost achieves the level of refinement that Ultima VII boasts. It's not quite there yet, retaining a bit of the Apple ][ era feel. Maybe that's why I think I liked this a bit more than VII. It doesn't try to hide the fact that it's a game. The interface takes up half the screen, there are a dozen or so unique commands (like a LucasArts point and click adventure), and there still are actual RPG elements like leveling-up and turn-based combat.

Star Trek: 25th Anniversary on MS-DOS (7/10)

Star Track Computer Game

I remember watching my housemate play this game quite a bit back when we were in college. I don't think he had the CD-ROM version—which included voice acting from the original cast. Luckily this GOG.com version has all the recorded elements (and none of the weird DOS set up problems). Yup, there's nothing like hearing an aged, breathy-voiced DeForest Kelley read mediocre video game dialogue!

Eye of the Beholder on MS-DOS (7/10)

Big ol' space squid gonna get you! Eye of the Beholder, Screenshot

Eye of the Beholder is a real-time RPG dungeon crawl that borrows heavily from the mechanics of Dungeon Master. It's a completely mouse-driven experience in which the objects in the environment can all be used, picked up or thrown with a click. Combat is also real-time and is generally just a mad scramble backwards as you click your various party members' weapon hands and hope for "good rolls".

While the fights are frantic and fun, the real meat of the game-play is exploration, mapping, and puzzle solving. I went through a dozen sheets of graph paper drawing out each floor knowing full-well I could just grab the maps from the Web (the GOG.com version even includes a complete hint book). As tedious as it might sound to modern gamers, the act of plotting out the layout is oddly satisfying. I wish it could be done in-game à la Etrian Odyssey, but, if it's any consolation, I now have 11 floors worth of half-erased, taped together graph paper maps that are suitable for framing. Perfect for any lair!

Shadow Warrior Classic on MS-DOS (6/10)

Shadow Warror: Looks Like Salad

This is a classic FPS from the same people who brought us Duke Nukem 3D. In this outing, the politically incorrect humor is based around the protagonist's ridiculous Asian accent and culturally insensitive one-liners. It can be quite cringe-worthy at times, but inevitably it's harmless. Especially when compared to the over-the-top gore and violence. Ah, the 90's. If you can find your safe space, what remains is an exciting game that sticks to the usual run and gun formula of this era. There are a lot of crazy weapons, tough enemies and unique level designs (for the time). Modern gamers may scoff at the lack of narrative and primitive presentation, but I thought it was fast, offensive, silly fun.

Teenagent on MS-DOS (3/10)

Teenagent

You can download and play Teenagent for free from GOG.com, and, because of my obsessive-compulsive nature when it comes to completing games I own, I felt obliged to give it a whirl. It took about 45 minutes of frustration for me to realize that this point-and-click adventure really wasn't worth the logic-defying effort. This game commits all the puzzle design sins of 90's adventure games. It's the type of game design that pretty much killed the genre.

King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow on MS-DOS (6/10)

King's Quest VI - Pawn Shoppe

While this game was a pretty big improvement over KQV, it still was just too mired in Sierra adventure game brutality for me to really enjoy. There has been some attempt to make the puzzles a bit more forgiving here, including allowing for the player to take multiple paths to victory. I did alright through about the first third of the game then it just gets nasty.

King's Quest V - Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder on MS-DOS (5/10)

King's Quest V - Warning: This game will suck.

Despite their flaws, I have enjoyed playing all the games in the King's Quest series up until now (I,II,III & IV). Unfortunately, I can't say that I liked King's Quest V.

King's Quest V - The Fortune TellerThis is a game that I have apparently owned for Macintosh for years, but never knew it.  When I tried to install it on my ancient Mac Power PC it would not run and then promptly sold the game off on eBay (I think I got thirty bucks for it). I still wanted to the play the game, especially after finally completing King's Quest IV. So, when it went on sale at GOG.com I promptly purchased it as part of a KQ 4-7 bundle for $3.99 (I'm still up $26.01!).

Space Quest on MS-DOS (8/10)

Space Quest: Bar It's been quite some time since I tackled a Sierra 3-D adventure game (See my reviews of Kings's Quest I, II & III and Leisure Suit Larry). I've said it before, but I just love the unique pixelated artwork and animation of all these games.

I don't think I ever finished this game as a kid, but I must have gotten pretty far since I was able to progress through most of the game this time without much trouble (if only I had a video game blog when I was 13 years old).

Ultima 7: The Back Gate & Serpent Isle on MS-DOS (8/10)

Considered by many to be the best games of the Ultima series, Ultima 7 is one of the most detailed and time-consuming RPGs I have ever attempted to tackle. You can pick up and interact with just about every object in the game and there are tons of dialog trees to navigate through. The story is intriguing and branches all over the place, with some of the main plot lines spanning both games. My biggest complaints with the game is the awful MIDI based sound effects, major Windows compatibility issues, and the fighting system lacks any strategy. The game makes up for these flaws in its depth.