Friday Flashback Five: Week of April 28, 1996

Yes, friends, it’s time for another Friday Flashback Five, where we look at five games that debuted that week in gaming history, and what effect, if any, it had on gamers and the hobby in general.  This week, we’re dialing the Wayback Machine all the way back to the week of April Twenty-Eighth, Nineteen Ninety-Six.

Quite a few games came out this week that gamers will remember for one reason or another.  They’re mostly simply fun at their core, regardless of whatever else can be said about them.  As usual, this list is presented in an order that is in no fashion whatsoever particular about itself, so let’s get it started.

Well-received Windows system entry of the franchise that started a year previous, it stars the eponymous Rayman on a trip through the mind of a designer who did all of the things in the ‘Sixties that we can’t talk about on a family-friendly web site.

Rayman himself, like the game as a whole, was well-designed and simply fun-looking.  Lacking arms and legs but possessing hands and feet, the character ran through weird-as-heck levels to free “Electoons”, little metaphorical “trips” incarnate, and traveled through six interestingly-designed worlds to do it.

It’s also one of those games that you can’t easily explain to someone.  You have to shove a copy into their hands and ask them to play for themselves, while promising that if they do, it’ll be well worth their effort.

Disney’s Toy Story
This one for the Game Boy, it featured Andy’s toys as they try and prepare for Andy’s birthday.  The frame rate was horrible, partly because they tried to push the system with graphics that looked analogous to its full-console brethren.  Given the specs—yeah.  It didn’t work.

That said, there was a certain charm to it.  It was similar to the Genesis version, though some changes were made.  The story was told through text screens, and it wasn’t always clear who was saying what.  Still, it wasn’t the worst addition to a kid’s Game Boy library.

Indiana Jones and his Desktop Adventures
This was a way to cash in on the success of the film franchise and the “mainstream” titles, it was more a desktop mini-game than anything else.

It was apparently designed as a time-killer, or for younger gamers, or whatever else.  The game play was overly simplistic, and the same every time you played.  A map was randomly generated with certain “quests” to complete.  Not the most complex game around, but fun enough for what it was.

Earthworm Jim 1&2: The Whole Can ‘O Worms
There’s hardly a gamer alive of my generation that doesn’t have fond memories of Earthworm Jim.  His games—even the weird-and-not-in-a-good-way sequel—were irreverent but humorous, wacky yet stylish, and above all else fun.  The plot, such as it was, was ludicrously hilarious.  An earthworm is wiggling along, minding his own wormy business, when a space suit crash-lands right on top of him and interfaces with him, giving him higher intelligence and, of course, weaponry.  The plot is actually far less deep and far more hilarious than it appears in mere text, let me assure you.  He develops a crush on Princes What’s-Her-Name and has to save her from villains such as Psy-Crow and Queen Slug for a Butt.

This compendium of sorts packages the two games together into hours of hilarious fun.  I know I use the word “hilarious” often, but it’s quite warranted.  Since this was before the days where “special features” and the like were popular, you didn’t get anything but the two games if you bought the compendium—but you were getting two wonderful games for the price of one, so it was quite a deal.

Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal
By and large, anything branded with the “Warcraft” title has been received rather well and Beyond the Dark Portal was no exception.  An expansion to Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness, it featured new heroes (but no new basic units, sadly) and twenty-four new scenarios that were generally higher than Tides, for those who found them too easy the first time around.

It follows in the steps of Tides in that it was a bloody, adrenaline-packed real-time strategy game, but one that was more thoughtful about the story it was presenting.  It wasn’t really the War and Peace of video games—but it really did come close, examining such things as genocide and wanton destruction.


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