Some time ago, I read the John Le Carre novel The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. Le Carre’s sober, unromantic description of espionage during the cold war was very gripping and powerful. There are no fantastic gadgets, or cat stroking villains plotting world domination, just ordinary fallible people working two sides of a complex and grim international conflict. His novels make for fascinating and engrossing reading and he was very successful in his day, but something that stood out to me about this book and the rest of Le Carre’s works was how very rare it seems to be that we see a down to earth approach to spy stories. I suppose that, for as interesting as the real world of spies is, it is far too complex and depressingly serious for broad general appeal. Sometimes you just want to see the good guy fool absurdly evil bad guys. People long for the thrill of a sudden gunfight or a final act twist. That may be why one of the most enduring franchises in media history is Ian Flemming’s James Bond.
Between the time when bad sales drowned the Dreamcast, and the rise of the virtual reality console wars, there was an age undreamed of. And unto this, Solid Pawn, destined to wear the crown of a pretty well decked out retro games collection upon a troubled brow. It is I, the man himself, who alone can tell thee of this saga. Let me tell you of the days of high adventure!
There was a strange period in the 90s where Hollywood was making film adaptations of TV shows from the 60s and 70s. It may just be that the 90s was a peak time of nostalgia for people who grew up watching them, but it was an unusual trend. There was The Fugitive and The Beverly Hillbillies in 1993 and Lost In Space and The Avengers in 1998. This trend continued into the early 2000s as well with movies like The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle in 2000 and I Spy in 2002. Not many of these saw wide-spread success even with name recognition and a degree of nostalgia. But one film managed to become a franchise almost forty years after its original television run, 1996’s Mission: Impossible.
A long time ago, there was an old apple computer in my house with some pre-loaded software on it. It had solitaire, a jigsaw puzzle program, and an old adventure game called Power Pete. But the program that stuck with me the most from that machine was Lode Runner: The Legend Returns. Lode Runner was a series of puzzle platformer games by Douglas Smith and published by Brøderbund, wherein you played as a man delving into a vast series of mines to find and/or steal gold. The Legend Returns was a sequel, in which you play as Jake Peril, searching through the subterranean caverns of the Earth to steal gold from the Mad Monks, in an effort to escape the dying planet. The game was colorful, challenging and creative. In addition to over one hundred single player and multiplayer levels, the game included a very diverse level editor that let you make your own crazy stages.
The Nintendo 64 and the PlayStation give us some of the greatest games of all time. With systems capable of using full 3D, everyone wanted to take advantage of it. Nintendo managed to very smoothly transition some of their best franchises to 3D, with titles like Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Sony came in strong with brand new franchises, like Crash Bandicoot and Oddworld. 3D gaming was revolutionary, and the sixth console generation was in instrumental step in forming the groundwork for later great console games. But lost in the flood of 3D titles was the potential for advanced 2D gaming.