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Home of The Undertow
A column dedicated to sucking you into the muck and mire of gaming.

Remember When? - Part I                                             Past Columns
Monday, January 25, 1999

(Note:  This is Part I of a many part series in which I look back at some of the games I've really dug over the years.  Upcoming parts will be interspersed with regular Undertow offerings.)

Something occurred to me the other day, and it sort of crept up on me from out of the blue:  I was becoming bored with today's games.  After playing Half-Life I was exhausted, spent, and downright confused.  I reached a pinnacle of sorts...where to go from here?  I searched the shelves to no avail...nothing jumped out at me and screamed "Buy me!"  This is not to say there aren't any good games out there right now, but nothing really grabbed me by the cajones.  What to do, what to do...

So I searched through my pile of old games and happened upon one of my favs from the past.   Anyone remember BioForge?  Anyone ever heard of it?

BioForge:  Part "Frankenstien"  meets "The Island of Dr. Moreau" meets "Cyborg" (aka The Six Million Dollar Man).

Post surgery modifications.

Who can forget the graphics from the cover of the box that hit store shelves back in the spring of 1995?  That funky green cyborg hand and the descriptive, yet creepy, one name title, BioForge, just begged you to pick up the box and check it out.  In those days, I was always on the lookout for good adventure games, so after getting one recommendation from a friend, I was sold.  Isn't it funny how technology can ruin a genre.  Years ago most companies put out some really good adventure games because that genre was in line with technology.  Now we have about one company (LucasArts) that still puts out good adventure games.  Let's face it, computer technology and 3D acceleration has nearly destroyed a genre that has been near and dear to me for years.

This is who you play.  Mirrors aren't your friend.

This is who you play, and you're not a pretty sight.  You start the gaming knowing nothing.  You don't know who you are, what you are, where you came from, or where you are.  You wake up in a detention cell in the above state of modification, with a security robot as nursemaid.  A very intriguing start, to a very good adventure game.

I never did much care for security robots.

Your task is simple:  get out and find out what the heck is going on.  Along the way you will slowly piece together the nightmare which has unfolded on this base situated on a moon surrounded by an ancient, hibernating, alien civilization.  Quakes rock the base, alien creatures dug up by archeologists wander about, the reactor is overheating, and robot sentries guard the way to the surface.  The work of research archaeologists has been interrupted by the machinations of the scheming scientist (Mastaba) who plans to use the advanced alien technology for his own ends.  He plans on building the perfect assassin for the Mondite movement which believes that technological evolution and the superiority of science is more important than the progression of nature itself.  And after a while, you figure out you are one of his first successful iterations.

The perfect lab to build a Mondite assassin.

BioForge combines many different gaming styles into one tight package.  The typical adventure game style is prevalent throughout, with interesting camera angles similar to Alone in the Dark, or more recently, Resident Evil.   The puzzles are interesting, and are usually based on alien technology which make them bizarre in their own right.  When push comes to shove though, it's time to enter combat mode.  Just press the "c" button and you're ready to rock.   Punches, headbutts, and roundhouse kicks are your typical attacks.  If you've found the gun, just let go with some high powered plasma.  The environment is 3D, and the design of the entire game is pretty damn impressive for the 1994-95 timeframe.

How do I open this dang door!

BioForge is also one of the those games that creates a great atmosphere.  The music and sound effects create just the right mood that places you square in the center of an alien moon under more than confusing circumstances.  I will never be able to get the echoing, heartbeat based music out of my head.

Once you get out of the base, the really interesting stuff begins to unfold.  You find out that the moon is home to a hibernating race of aliens.  You begin delving into their civilization in your quest to find out exactly what's going on.  In the end, you end up confronting Mastaba (who, alas, gets away if I recall), and awakening the alien hive which spews forth many, many alien spaceships from the center of the moon.  In the end you can also find out who you were, and depending on how you play the game, your previous identity will vary.

Just chillin in the tunnel.

Now here's the bummer.  There is no ending to the game...well, there is, but it should have ended with the infamous "To be continued..."  Just as you are about to put your biomodified claws on Mastaba, he escapes, you wake up an entire civilization, and you activate a spaceship and give chase.  WHAT!?  THE END!?  I was bumming hardcore when I finished this one.  The game was so good, and I wanted more.  Origin was planning on continuing the the story in the next installment, but it never happened.   So I just got to sit around and play "what if" games in my head when all was said an done.  (sigh)  I think I'll shoot an e-mail of the Origin asking about it.  It certainly wouldn't hurt.

I just re-installed this puppy the other day.  The full install is a massive 15 megs!  And it requires a 486DX2/50...I laughed!  This is a DOS only game, and it will not run under Win 95 or 98.  I had to go and recreate autoexec.bat and config.sys files so I could re-boot my machine to DOS and have the appropriate drivers (sound, CD-ROM, mouse).  For the curious, here they are:


SET BLASTER=A220 I5 D1 H5 P330 E620 T6
LH C:\PROGRA~1\GNET98\DOS\gmouse.com

For those Grasshoppers out there who have never had to play a DOS based game, just look and them an be thankful...yes, just be very thankful.  The game runs like a champ now when I boot out to DOS.

After I had first played BioForge, someone asked me what it was like.  I remember telling him it was like playing an interactive SF novel, with the story and plot unfolding about you as you progressed.   As far as the actual plot goes, I would compare this game to "Frankenstein" meets "The Island of Dr. Moreau" meets "Cyborg" (a.k.a. The Six Million Dollar Man, just the cyborg part of it) meets "The Forbidden Planet".   It makes for a great combination, and the developers should pat themselves on the back.  BioForge got great reviews and scores, but sadly, seemed to have been overlooked by a lot of players.

People continue to hype and push new, cutting edge games.  But I'm beginning to take a look back, instead of ahead.   I've started doing this with many of the SF books I've read recently (from the 50s), and find them to be more creative than some of the books that come out today.   There are some GREAT games out there that many of you have probably never played or heard of that came out in the early to mid 90s.  Do yourself a favor: find a good one, pick it up for $5-10, and play it!  It's not all about flashy graphics and cutting edge processing power!  To this DAY, I have always had a copy of X-COM UFO Defense on my machine.  Hmmm...could this be Part II?

Excuse me, I have some reminiscing to do.

Remember, the game's the thing . . .

~ Neal Ulen

Drop me an e-mail and let me know what you like and/or dislike about gaming, a particular title, or the industry in general.  As always, all (non-belligerent) criticism welcome!

Future Columns:

Is Valve the next id software?...to be written before Hell freezes over.

Death to 3D . . . Long Live 3D!...to be written before Rick sends me Heretic II.

Past Columns:

Monday, December 28, 1998
A Little More "Gaming", a Little Less "Community"
The gaming community needs a reality check.

Monday, August 31, 1998
Why John Romero May Actually be Dead
Though Romero wasn't physically killed, professionally he's committing suicide with his ego.

Tuesday, August 4, 1998
The Oxymoron of Real-Time Strategy
To all you RTS fans out there, there is no strategy!

Monday, July 20, 1998
Movies Based on 3D Games?  Gimme a Break!
Need I say more?

Monday, July 13, 1998
The Future of Game Development
Games become more complex, small developers die, big publishers gobble up small developers, game quality dies.

Wednesday, July 1, 1998
What I Want in a 3D Shooter:  An Open Letter to John Carmack
Hello out there, there's more to 3D shooters than explosions and deathmatch.

Monday, June 29, 1998
Let the Debate Begin!
Just a little background.

Tuesday, February 3, 1998
PGL Finals Impressions:  All the truth . . .  without the hype
My thoughts on the first Professional Gamers League Finals...after all, I was there.

The Undertow Copyright (c) 1998-99 Neal E. Ulen and GamesFirst!