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Posted on Jun 14th 2015 at 08:00:00 AM by (noiseredux)
Posted under PC

Gamers who grew up with consoles have been lucky over the years as far as nostalgia goes. In the last decade or two, we've seen a rise in and have been stuffed-to-the-gills with compilations of old console games. We've seen celebrations of the Atari 2600 and it's been shouted out loud that "Intellivision Lives!" We've gotten collections of Genesis carts and plenty of various arcade era releases.

But what if you are nostalgic for early PC gaming? Certainly there's plenty out there to explore. Services like GOG and DotEmu do a great job of bringing old games to a newer generation of gamers. And heck, if you know your way around DOSBox or Windows compatability settings, there's usually very little stopping you from finding old CD-ROMs or even 3.5" floppy discs of your favorites titles of yesteryear. Yet having said all that, it's nice to see a publisher throwing a bunch of their classics together and offering them up in a nice bundle. And that's just what the 3D Realms Anthology is.

If you didn't follow the scene of 1990's DOS gaming, you should know that it was a bit like the wild west. There was so much going on at that time, especially with the rise of shareware; the result was too many games and not enough time. However, the quality of these games would vary, and in fact, shareware and freeware became such a big deal back then that it wasn't uncommon to find many publishers (some less ethical than others) throwing a bunch of those floppy discs onto a CD-ROM and selling some nebulous collection of 50, 80, 100 or whatever AWESOME GAMES FOR YOUR COMPUTER! (or some other equally generic collection). Heck, I recently stumbled upon one probably less-than-legit compilation that had DOS ports of over 200 games like Mario Bros., Lost Vikings, and Wolfenstein 3D. It's also not uncommon for these games to have alternate titles or typos.

Now I understand that I've gone off on a bit of a tangent here, but I promise that it all ties into what I'm discussing here. You see, the funny thing is that 3D Realms Anthology actually sort of taps into the nostalgia for these old mish-mashes of DOS shareware--except, imagine it was done right. Instead of just having shareware levels, demos, or freeware, you've got full games, and they're titled correctly! In the same way I clicked randomly through the titles in those old DOS collections, I'm finding myself going through the list of 3D Realms' games to see what I may have missed or what great classic I'm in the mood to revisit. If you were part of the DOS gaming of the 1990's, you're going to have surges of awesome memories with this anthology.

If you think you're unfamiliar with the developer 3D Realms, you might be wrong. You see, for many years, they were (far better) known as Apogee Software, and it was as Apogee that they churned out an impressive run of hit games as both developer and 3rd party publisher for developers like id (again, riding high off the popularity of shareware at the time). Maybe you've heard of Duke Nukem? That was Apogee. Wolfenstein? Apogee. Commander Keen? Well, you get the idea.

Before I get into listing the specific games in this collection, I'd like to take a moment to talk a bit about the overall presentation. I must say that the biggest bummer for me was that there was no front-end, at least not in the Steam version that I got. I would have really preferred to see a single entry for the anthology show up in my Steam library and have that launch a front-end where I could peruse various box arts to choose my game. Instead, I've got 32 new Steam games added to my library! To me, it just feels like a cumbersome way of doing things, and keeping in mind recent releases like Sega's Genesis Classics Collection on Steam, which worked well with a single front-end. Front-end aside, the games all work and that is nice! Taking a cue from GOG, 3D Realms has taken all the work out of making their old DOS games run on modern systems, and they have even gone so far as assume that you might have a controller plugged into your USB port. So don't worry, no need to go find an adapter for that old Gravis gamepad, whatever modern controller you've got plugged in will work just fine. I spent an afternoon playing many of these games on my couch using a wireless 360 controller and it was actually pretty awesome to be playing these DOS games on a nice TV and have it look good. I must also applaud the inclusion of PDF manuals, maps, as well as remixed soundtracks. So while I'm not crazy about the lack of front-end as far as the presentation goes, I've got to give nothing but thumbs-up to 3D Realms for ensuring that the ease-of-use was up to par.

Sampling my way through the collection was a combination of nostalgic rush and a weird feeling that even though I was PC gaming at the time, I still managed to miss out on a heck of a lot of cool games. The anthology features plenty of sidescrolling action games, so if you're a fan of the genre, you should pay special attention. Alien Carnage (which originally went by the far more awesome name Halloween Harry) is an interesting one with its use of a jetpack and impressive graphics, though it definitely has some confusing level layouts. Cosmo's Cosmic Adventure isn't quite as great to look at, but plays rather well in the sort of Super Mario Bros. mold. There's also the early Duke Nukem games from back when Duke was still into sidescrolling instead of first person shooters. Monster Bash is recommended for fans of the silly-yet-macabre though it's also tough as nails.

Speaking of FPS games, it's got those too. Duke Nukem 3D, Blake Stone (both Aliens Of Gold and Planet Strike), Rise Of The Triad and Shadow Warrior all make appearances here. I played all of them using both a mouse and keyboard, as well as Xbox 360 controller, and they all worked great both ways. The Blake Stone games were great to revisit as I played them a lot via those aforementioned shareware collections when I was younger, however, I totally spaced out on theses titles years later.

There's also a couple of racing games present. Death Rally has sort of a Micro Machines top-down view and feeling to it, but the real standout here is Whacky Wheels. This game is a total rip-off of Super Mario Kart, sure, but it's also super impressive in copying the look and feel of the Mode 7 classic. I can only imagine it feeling some void that any kid of the 90's developed when their household was devoid of a SNES. Wacky Wheels has plenty of tracks, modes, and options to play with. However, I did have one major problem with the game: no matter what I tried, I could not get a second controller to work with the game. I even went as far as tweaking config files, but to no avail.

The rest of the 32 games are all over the place, and there's undoubtedly something here for any retro gamer. Pinball fans can check out the Apogee-themed Balls Of Steel (serious title). Shmup aficionados can take a look at Raptor, Stargunner, and Terminal Velocity. If you're in the mood for a little edutainment, you can fire up Math Rescue and World Rescue. Like I said, there's something here for everyone. Although the sidescrollers are definitely the predominantly represented genre, and although there are some glaring omissions (presumably due to current licensing) like Wolfenstein 3D, it's hard to find much to complain about here. If you were a fan of 90's DOS gaming, then this will be a wonderful time capsule for you to open. If you weren't exposed to 90's DOS gaming, then you're in for a serious treat - a whole world of retro gaming that you didn't even know you missed out on.

*Note: Although promotional materials showed a physical release for this title, it was only released via digital distribution.

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Talk about nostalgia when seeing that Wacky Wheels screenshot. I have it on a shareware compilation with the first 3 levels of Rise of the Triad (RotT). Apogee made a ton of awesome games, and they were on just about every shareware compilation I got when I had my first computer.
I loved all of those early Apogee titles.
I have such a love for the early PC platform titles that this buy is a no brainer for me, and Wacky Wheels and the FPS titles are just icing on the cake.  However given what you said I think I'll get the Anthology set on 3d Realms' website, as it does come with a slick looking front end, although I would be missing out on Balls of Steel, which is missing from the 3D Realms website one, so maybe I won't.  Regardless, this is one of the best anthology/collections I've come across in years.  The inclusion of the soundtrack (which is separate on the 3d Realms website) and the 25% off Steam sale pricing means I'm going to be buying this before the week is out.
I was such a big fan of all the early Apogee stuff.  Commander Keen, Duke Nukem, Aztec Adventure, etc.  I'm going to have to look this up and see the full list of games, because there are some classics that I'd love to play again.
ROTT is awesome!  That is the first game I played online.  A buddy and I would play over a 36.6 modem.  It was awesome!  Dog mode!

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