Despite my general preferences for games I grew up with, I like to think I’m relatively capable of separating out the Then and Now for assessing a game’s quality. A good game is a good game, not just “good for its time,” however period technologies and general conveniences can go a long way to upend one’s willingness to follow through with some previous good experiences today. I’ve dedicated paragraphs to articulating how games like Gunstar Heroes (Genesis), Legend of Zelda (NES), or even BurgerTime! (Intellivision) still hold their own against the current generation, but I can’t say the same for every game I played and enjoyed. That said, there’s one area where I can fully admit to being overcome by nostalgia and unable to properly assess a game’s continued worth, and that’s DOS games of the late 80’s and early 90’s… In fact I can tie most every modern preference I have for video games back to my file on the edutainment game Treasure Mountain (exploration and interactivity with the environment, combination of action and puzzle solving, resource management, optional 100% completion, etc.).
A considerably large part of that period was Apogee Software; acting as a developer, publisher, pioneer, and investor for some of the greatest games on PC. Games like Commander Keen, Crystal Caves, Duke Nukem, Wolfenstein 3D, the criminally underrated Blake Stone (which unluckily released within days of the game-changing DOOM), and many more classics all flew under the Apogee banner. When the industry was making its big jump into the third dimension, Apogee was towards the front of the pack (Duke Nukem 3D, Shadow Warrior, Rise of the Triad), even changing their name to 3D Realms in the process.
Sadly, today 3D Realms is primarily known for being the group that let Duke Nukem Forever sit in limbo for 14 years (1997-2011), and the group’s been relatively silent since then… until now!
3D Realms is showing its face again, and just released a bundle of most every game in their catalog. It excludes some of their more recent games, and the older text-based and ANSI games from the 80’s like KROZ (which fortunately was rereleased as freeware anyway), but the bundle is packed with content spanning multiple genres direct from the company’s glory days. With 31 games (including all episodes, not just the shareware), 26 manual scans, partial controller support, and zero DRM for $20 (it has since gone up to $30), this was an easy buy, and I feel like I’m 6 years old again.
A few liberties were taken. Certain games boot up with a new anti-piracy screen prior to discourage file sharing, although these screens are done in the style of the existing game. So far the only change to content I can see is the change in Duke Nukem II to retroactively apply sunglasses all across the game (which was actually done for the game’s Steam release). To be fair, Duke was suffering from crazy-eye in the original box art.
I’ve already gone in to check out a few of the games; and it’s great to see them again. Now if only I could stop wasting time on Commander Keen‘s wristwatch.