My three favourite games of all time are Exile, The Sentinel and Zarch.
Zarch is the name of a game on the Acorn Archimedes; I played the Amiga port, which was called Virus. In fact, Zarch itself was a full-fledged version of an Archimedes demo called Lander. David Braben (yes, he who, along with Ian Bell, created Elite) wrote it in three months in 1987. Virus, the Amiga port, didn’t look as good (no light-sourced polygons), ran slower, and was released a year later, but I still loved it.
Lander became known for its fast, smooth, solid-3D graphics. In 1987 this was an almost unbelievable achievement. ACE magazine (which was known for rating games out of 1000 points, and for publishing a lastability graph with each review that extimated how much you’d still be enjoying the game after an hour, a day, a week, a month and a year) featured it on it’s cover, along with the headling: “Solid 3D – The Future of Games?”
I loved playing Virus for its procedurally generated landscapes, but what really clicked for me was the controls. It was the first game I played where a mouse was the preferred control method for movement. Moving the mouse rotated the ship around two axes, while the right mouse button was used to generate thrust. First time players would instantly crash and burn, due to the precision and sensitivity of the controls, and the learning curve was steep. Persistence paid off, however, and after plenty of practice it was possible to skim low over the landscape and turn on a dime. Sweet.
The left mouse button, of course, was used to fire your weapon. The gameplay consisted of ridding the landscape of all polluting alien craft before they could complete their task of seeding the verdant land with their evil red virus. Simple, really.
Some people have asked how to get hold of The Sentinel, Exile and Zarch (aka Virus). Here’s how:
- Purchase the Plus edition of Amiga Forever, which includes licensed versions of all Amiga Operating System ROM and 100 games of various quality. It costs US$30, and it comes with Exile included.
- Search Google to try to find versions of The Sentinel and Virus that you can run under emulation via Amiga Forever, but that may not be available with the permission of the copyright owner.
- Alternatively, search Google for free remakes of these games (although I cannot vouch for their quality).