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Edge Magazine #175 May 2007

A moment of nostalgia

Edge #175, May 2007

I'm all too aware that I've been frightfully horrid to the PlayStation 3 in recent columns. But following the system's launch I've actually started to feel sorry for Sony.

I've no reason to feel sorry for them, of course, because they're a large, multinational corporation whose job it is to eat our money. Indeed, from this early point of view the PS3 seems to have sold reasonably well, even if the public relations battle is far from won. Nevertheless, I feel it is time for some positivity around my parts, and there's nothing quite so warming as nostalgia.

To this end I've been sat here, stroking my special beard and mulling over some of my most perfect gaming moments. Intriguingly, it struck me sideways how few of them were deliberate aspects of the prescribed gameplay. By which I mean that the things I have most enjoyed about many of my favourite games have been the things they don't tell you in the instruction manual. The happy accidents, the signs of a game engine veering off in ways its creators could never have anticipated.

And here - because you're probably aching to read them - is they:

Half-Life 2 (PC): I'm fairly certain I'm not alone in this, but I can't believe that Valve ever predicted quite how much fun the gravity gun would be. I don't know whether the concept was there from the start, or whether it was a minor element of the weapons arsenal which got bumped up at some latter point of development, but the first time I tossed the ball to Dog is up there with my first ever Mario spin-jump. Indeed, my one disappointment with Half-Life 2 (actually, more with Half-Life 2: Episode One) is that the gravity gun wasn't explored more fully. The physics engine is so brilliant - and has yet to be surpassed - that a less-linear, sandbox game featuring gravity gun and physics would be the greatest thing ever. Please do that, Valve.

Dog's Life (PS2): I consider this an overlooked gem. Not because it was a particularly good game, but it is the only example of so-called 'interactive entertainment' wherein you can do a poo, pick it up in your mouth, and run around with it before throwing it at a passer-by.

World Games (C64): I never owned a C64, being a dyed-in-the-wool Spectrumface until the Atari ST came along. Nevertheless, my friend Phil had one, and I would go round to his house at weekends purely to play World Games. Specifically, I would go round to his house to play the cliff diving event in World Games. And not even to play it properly, which would have required me to contort my fingers into horrible shapes and learn the controls. I just liked making the diver crash head-first into the rocks, thus braining him to death and scaring away the nearby seagull. Looking back, far too much of my youth was spent doing this.

Crackdown (360): Crackdown is my current passion. I kind of get the sense that, perhaps, it's not actually a very good game. There's lots to admire about it on a technical level, but in most respects it's pretty charmless. And yet I've spent more time on Crackdown than any other game this year. The core experience - running around a lovely, GTA-esque city taking out gang bosses - is by far the dullest part of the experience. Far more interesting is your character's superhuman agility, the climbing frame that is the city itself, and the ability to upgrade your abilities by collecting orbs.

Now, I'm typically the sort of person who avoids collectables in games, and yet I have been obsessively scouring every last inch of Crackdown to hear those elusive, pulsing tones. I'm currently on over 400 agility orbs, and I'm buggered if I know where the remaining ones are. If a game can get a collect-o-phobe like me collecting then it's doing something right.

Dead Rising (360): Perhaps the greatest recent example of sandbox thinking, I actually believe Dead Rising to be a rubbish game shoe- horned into one of the best worlds ever conceived. If not, in fact, the best. I confess that I haven't even played through the game the whole way, and yet I'm still going back to it to run through zombie hordes with lawnmowers, put horse masks on undead heads and play zombie golf.

The Sims series (PC): It is impossible to play these games without inputting the unlimited money cheat and/or wrapping your Sims in a combination of skins you've downloaded off the internet. You haven't played this game properly until you've locked David Tennant and Jean-Luc Picard in an airless room, forced them to copulate, and then watched them slowly pee themselves to death.

Premier Manager 97 (PC): Yes, it's an old one. No, it's not the far superior Championship Manager. But it is the one we used to have installed on our office PC at Digitiser. We weren't interested in how our team was doing; we just liked changing the names of the players, and laughing during the commentaries as Stink Penis crossed to Sex Vicar. Until the day we got caught by our features editor, that is.

Mr Biffo co-founded Digitiser, Channel 4's Teletext-based videogames section, and now writes mainly for television

Do you know of any important moments from the annals of Digi history that have been omitted? If so, then mail me ( right now, man. Credit will be duly given for anything that gets put up.

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