In late June this year, I visited The Story of the Moving Image at ACMI and spent some time in the Games Lab Presented by Big Ant Studios. In this article, I will be sharing my thoughts on three fantastic games that are part of the Play it Again II: Australian games from the 90s project.
ACMI is displaying these games to showcase some of the most played and impactful games created in Australia at the time, and to demonstrate the importance of preserving games made in the 90s and earlier. These days, it's difficult to play 90s games as they tend to run on rare or even obsolete hardware. It’s important we preserve these games to remember our roots and the games we created in the past.
Xena Warrior Princess: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (1999)
The first game I played at ACMI was Xena Warrior Princess: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. The developers of the game, Brilliant Digital Entertainment, made multipath movies to save storage space on computers, and they would produce new episodes every week for subscribers to play. The game was played with point-and-click controls.
Xena, a courageous warrior woman fights mystical evil during the time of ancient Greece, alongside her partner Gabrielle the bard who helps her on her journey and makes sure she is on the right path. Xena fights supernatural creatures such as scary green ogres, fire-breathing bulls, eight-legged dryads and magic cyclopes.
The graphics were as you would expect from the 90s – very blocky and chunky looking. Xena’s face was the shape of a pentagon. The game had pretty good lighting – caves are illuminated by the characters' torches and other natural lighting is quite detailed too. It had an enchanting soundtrack with hysterical dialogue and an accurate array of sound effects like buckets clanking and swords swishing during battle.
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The Dame Was Loaded (1995)
Out of all the games I played, this was my favourite. The Dame Was Loaded was a revolutionary point-and-click noir game where you play as a detective, Scott Anger, who is tasked with solving the mystery of the disappearance of a woman’s brother. Anger visits various locations around the city to gather information on the whereabouts of the missing man, including the police station, newspaper office, barber and the diner (my favourite place). At these locations you can click on virtually anything, and when you do, detective Anger will tell you something about the object before you can interact with it.
The game’s soundtrack was a highlight; it matched the vibe of the game fantastically. The eerie theme music made chills run down my spine. The most revolutionary thing about The Dame Was Loaded was its first-person 'Full Motion Video' (FMV) graphics, which enhanced the quality and immersion of the game – it had by far the best graphics of all the games I played.
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International Cricket (1992)
I approached this game thinking it was going to be my least favourite, but I was pleasantly surprised. There are 2 game modes available to play: Single Match for a quick match against a friend or the AI, and Round Robin if you want to play for longer. You can bat, bowl and even field, all using the NES controller – you can even host up to 6 players at once! Due to the array of techniques available, International Cricket had high replayability value; you can just sit there and bowl without getting sick of it.
After about 5 minutes of playing I was bopping my head and humming to the game's extra catchy soundtrack. The graphics weren’t anything to write home about – like every game at that time it was very pixelated, with minimal animations. The developers also inserted little jokes throughout the game. For example, due to the developers not having licenses, they named a player H. Mervin instead of Merv Hughes!
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The best part of my visit to The Story of the Moving Image wasn’t playing the games – it was listening to other visitors talking to their friends and family about ‘the good old days’ when they would rush home to play these games.
While I was playing International Cricket, I noticed a woman standing behind me watching my screen. I offered to let her play and she responded, "That’s OK, trust me I played this game enough when I was a kid." These games created thousands of peoples’ fondest childhood memories and that’s why it’s so crucial that we preserve them.
– Nadav Gozlan is a year 10 student at Leibler Yavneh College in Elsternwick, Victoria. He loves videogames and movies, and would like to write about these topics when he leaves school.