• magisterrex Retro Games


    I've been gaming since the days of Pong and still own a working Atari 2600. I tend to ramble on about retro games, whether they be board games, video games or PC games. Sometimes I digress. Decades after earning it, I'm finally putting the skills I learned while completing my history degree from the University of Victoria to good use. Or so I think. If you're into classic old school gaming, this blog is for you!

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    Got a game or product you want reviewed? Send me an email! Will review board games, PC games, video games and accessories (Xbox 360 or Wii, but also new releases for classic systems - you know who you are!)
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Warrior Labs Forgotten Classics – World of Aden: Thunderscape

Here’s another post in the Forgotten Classics series on the great PC games you might not remember at the Warrior Labs website. This entry’s subject is the SSI classic steampunk RPG, The World of Aden: Thunderscape. You can read it here:  CLICK ME

Front cover of World of Aden: Thunderscape

Warrior Labs is a gaming website devoted to PC Gaming. Their goals are:

  • Create a strong community of PC Gamers.
  • Get inspiration from each other.
  • Tell tales about our favorite games.
  • Encourage creativity and gather people around original projects.


ReBlog: The Commodore Amiga – 25 Years Later


Hard to believe, but the Commodore Amiga computer system is 25 years old this year.   For a great read on some of the history of this classic computer, visit the following link to Harry McCracken’s “Amiga: 25 Years Later” article at Technologizer, located HERE


Shameless Plug Alert! And for Commodore related games & accessories, check out magisterrex.com!

Great Gaming Accessories from Yesteryear: The Turbo CD

The ultimate accessory for video console gaming in the early 1990’s was not the Sega CD – it was the Turbo CD with a Super System Card.  This combination permitted owners of NEC’s TurboGrafx-16 gaming system to access some of the very best games available at the time, whether they were North American or Japanese releases, such as Dungeon Explorer II, Ys Book I and II, Lords of Thunder, and Dracula X.

The Turbo CD with TurboGrafx-16

The Turbo CD attached itself to the TurboGrafx-16 system, and the new world of CD gaming was opened up.  The Super System Card turned the Turbo CD into a Turbo Duo machine, with 256K of RAM (split 64K DRAM and 192K SRAM).  It also provided the most advanced bios for the T16 (version 3.0), which permitted its owners to play the “Super System CD” games.  The extra memory gave programmers the ability to use the entire color palette for their games’ backgrounds, which provided a much richer gaming experience.

Turbo CD Super System Card 3.0

So if this accessory was the greatest thing to happen to gaming since the release of the Atari 2600, why didn’t everyone own one?  Well, to begin with, it was an accessory for the TurboGrafx-16 system, which was fighting for ground in the Nintendo vs. Sega console wars, and losing.  It was also BIG, which was odd, considering the Japanese model it was based on (for the PC Engine) was quite small.  Perhaps the North American fascination for big trucks and luxury cars blinded the design team at NEC, since they clearly thought BIGGER was better.  Unfortunately, retailers don’t want giant boxes that are mostly Styrofoam or packaging today, and they didn’t then, either.  With a box measuring 59.5cm x 44.5cm x 26cm (23.4″ x 17.5″ x 10.2″), who had the space to display it, never mind stock it in any significant quantity?  Another reason was that, unlike the Sega CD, which included Sewer Shark, the Turbo CD did not include a game, which meant you had to add a little more cost to the final bill.  That leads us to the final, and most important reason why the Turbo CD did not catch fire in the gaming universe: the price.  NEC priced the Turbo CD at $399, which was a prohibitive price point.  Although the standard System 2.0 Card was included in the package, it only gave access to the standard CD games.  Only by purchasing the Super System Card could gamers access the Super CD titles (like Prince of Persia, DragonSlayer, etc), and this was retailing in the $80-$100 range.

So let’s review NEC’s market strategy for the Turbo CD:

  1. High price
  2. Basic function unless you pay even more money for an accessory for the accessory
  3. GIANT size
  4. No game

I’m not a rocket scientist, but this combination would spell disaster today for any peripheral’s sales, never mind during the height of the Nintendo vs. Sega console wars!

Behold: The TurboGrafx CD original box

So in the end, the Turbo CD was the best gaming accessory no one bought.  Today retrogaming is a both a popular and enjoyable pastime.  If you are a retrogamer with a passion for all things 90s, you simply need to have a TurboGrafx-16 with a Turbo CD system!  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I feel a need for some Lords of Thunder Super CD action coming on – awesome guitar riffs and amazing game play await!

Retro Game of the Week – Empire Deluxe (1993)

Empire Deluxe (1993) title screen.

If ever there was a game that could be pointed to and accredited for the “just one more turn” phenomenon in gaming, Empire Deluxe is it.  Released in 1993 by New World Computing, Empire Deluxe was an advanced and enhanced version of Empire: Wargame of the Century, which in turn was a version of Empire, first released in 1977 and coded in FORTRAN.  The early version of Empire was crude as the platforms it ran on, but was still addictive.  The 1987 Interstel Corporation release, Empire: Wargame of the Century, had the advantage of Mark Baldwin‘s graphic user interface, making it visual appealing, which helped the game garner “Game of the Year” honors from the influential Computer Gaming Magazine.  This success helped propel Empire Deluxe‘s sales forward, having the advantage of both a built-in user base as well as being a high quality game.  In fact, Empire Deluxe sold well, and remains a favorite game for many PC gamers, earning a spot on GameSpy.com’s “Top 50 Games of All Time” list.

Box art for Empire Deluxe

Game play of Empire Deluxe is very familiar, as it should be considering it is the great-grandaddy of the entire RTS genre.  Each player starts with one city, and needs to develop his military strength to conquer the surrounding territory.  Military units are varied, and include infantry, armor, transports, destroyers, cruisers, submarines, battleships, aircraft carriers, fighters, and bombers.  Targets have differing defensive and offensive values, and not every city is easily conquered.  (In fact, conquering cities lowers their production capacity, and if a city changes hands often, it becomes almost useless as a source of production.)  Combat is straight-forward, with the winner moving into the loser’s square upon victory.  Exploration is key, and as players start on an island, building up a naval task force (with both exploratory and combat vessels) is necessary to achieve victory.

Empire Deluxe screen shot

Empire Deluxe had three modes for aspiring world conquerors: Basic, Standard, and Advanced.  The Basic Mode was set up for beginners, with limits to the number and types of units available, simple production rules, and the elimination of the “fog-of-war” obscuration of the game map.  The Standard Mode used the “fog-of-war” feature, added a few more complications to the production rules, and permitted the use of a few more military units.  The Advanced Mode unlocked all the military units (from infantry to bomber!), added rules for terrain effects on movement and combat, presented the most complications for city production, and opened the game map to its largest size (200×200).

Rear box art for Empire Deluxe

Some of the game industry’s brightest minds worked on custom maps for Empire Deluxe, including Will Wright (The Sims), Trevor Sorenson (Star Fleet), Don Gilman (Harpoon), and Noah Falstein (Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis).  It seems obvious that the game’s influence throughout the industry is noticeably vast!  If you’ve never played a game of Empire Deluxe, you’re missing out on a piece of retro gaming history.  Between its history significance and the happy memories it invokes, Empire Deluxe is a true retrogaming classic!

A new King’s Quest PC Game?

King's Quest The Silver Lining

A new King’s Quest chapter is now available free online from Phoenix Online Game Development.  No, it’s not Sierra Online, but it does have an interesting endorsement from Roberta Williams, the creator of King’s Quest.  This goes beyond creating a mod, and is more the coding version of fan fiction, with varied production values, but certainly worth a look, if only for the novelty.  You can download it HERE

The Best Classic Board Games – Mouse Trap

Has any game inspired so many budding engineers than Mouse Trap? If there ever was a game that taught cause and effect, Mouse Trap was it. Some have claimed it was “too difficult” to put the game board together. Heaven forbid we teach our children the value of perseverance and rewards from accomplishing something difficult, or take the time to pull ourselves from our daily grind to actually spend quality time with our children. Our microwave society seems hell-bent on celebrating “everyone gets a medal day” while removing any challenges from our children’s paths, while decreasing the level of difficulty for any task to the point of being ridiculously simplistic. But I digress…

Box front for the 1963 Mouse Trap game.

Mouse Trap was created by Harvey Kramer, while working for Marvin Glass & Associates, and in 1963, the game was licensed to the Ideal Toy Company. Mr. Kramer was an odd duck: a toymaker who disliked children. (Shades of old Stauf from The 7th Guest!) The original game design called for very little interaction, with players simply moving their pieces around the game board and trying to avoid being trapped. The lack of interactivity wasn’t surprising, as the game was originally envisioned as a toy, and it wasn’t until well within its development that a game board and die were added. The resulting game sold well enough to propel Ideal into the market as a board game publisher.

The incredible Sid Sackson.

The game was redesigned somewhat in the 1970s by the legendary game designer (and freelance game troubleshooter), Sid Sackson. He added extra game elements to improve Mouse Trap’s interactivity: players now collected pieces of “cheese” while roaming the game board, and could now contrive to get their opponents into the special trap space. This version was released in 1984 by Milton Bradley – who had assumed the game’s manufacturing rights from Ideal – and remains the one embedded in the gaming community’s popular consciousness.

A typical Rube Goldberg contraption.

Mouse Trap was indeed a GREAT game. It was inspired by the drawings of Rube Goldberg, whose complicated contraptions had entertained Americans through the middle of the 20th Century. Unfortunately, although Marvin Glass acknowledged Mr. Goldberg’s influence to the game’s design, declined to play the then quite elderly artist any royalties, which Mr. Goldberg had neither the resources nor strength to fight. It’s hard to believe, but board game history is full of dastardly deeds such as this – just ask who actually invented the game of Monopoly. (But I digress…again.)

How the Mouse Trap works...

In a typical Rube Goldberg drawing, many small actions build one upon the other to create a chain reaction. In Mouse Trap, the sequence is as follows: the player turns a crank, which engages a set of gears. As the gears turn, they push against a lever, which causes a shoe to kick a bucket containing a metal ball. The bucket tips over, and the ball is sent down a set of stairs and into an eaves trough (rain gutter), eventually reaching the bottom where a rod holding a “helping hand” sits. Once the ball strikes the rod, a large marble is dislodged, passing through a bathtub, and landing directly onto a diving board, which in turn sends a surprised diver sailing through the air and into a large wash tub. The impact causes a cage to drop down onto the “trap square,” trapping whatever poor mouse is under it. Whew! I don’t know about you, but it sure sounds like a Rube Goldberg device to me.

Mouse Trap game box.

Although Mouse Trap is a game for 2 to 4 players, and is recommended for ages 6 and up, it really isn’t meant for kids to play unsupervised. The game board is too complex and finicky for a child to set up on their own, without a parent to either guide the process or to offer encouragement when things go awry. However, the game remains one of the best teaching tools to show the relationship between cause and effect, and the consequences of small actions. It can lead to a great conversation between parent and child on this topic, or can be a segue to a long discussion on the unforeseen consequences of undesirable behavior. Any game that can accomplish those tasks is a classic board game, and highly recommended!

And just because it is the best live-action Rube Goldberg machine I’ve ever watched on YouTube, here’s This Too Shall Pass from OK Go:

ReBlog: Planescape Torment Graphic Upgrade

For anyone that loved Planescape: Torment as much as I did, you need to check out this graphic upgrade mod.

Having only played a bit of Planescape Torment ages ago and having finally grabbed the DVD re-release of the game, I’ve decided to properly play through the whole thing and let myself enjoy the delights of this apparently delightful game. Cunningly, I also decided to be all modern and contemporary about it and mod, patch and update the thing to perfection….Read More

via Gnome’s Lair

More on the classic retro game (really!) Planescape: Torment can be found here: Retro Game of the Week – Planescape: Torment

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