Diary Games: The Beginning of the Millennium

This is a post in a nostalgic series with transcriptions of my diary sessions of the many games I played from 2000 and onwards, translated and adapted from Danish.

In fact, this is the very first one with the first play sessions in 2000. As is the case with so many hobbies just like this one, it started in a casual manner and only gradually became more serious. It wasn’t like hitting a switch and suddenly I was writing hundreds of lines in each session.

I started writing diaries about my life in 1996 and have kept it up since then. Games were rarely mentioned as something I played one evening. I wasn’t really into gaming until I had sort of an epiphany with Gunman Chronicles, as you can read here below. In the end of the 90’s, it was mostly about coding and composing. I did complete Rama, Sanitarium and the first three Tomb Raider games in the end of the 90’s, but their sessions were sometimes months apart and the comments very brief.

Although better for the following ten games, the descriptions are still plain and the details few. However, it gets a lot more interesting in later blog posts as I dig deeper into my diaries. Later I also started grabbing my own screenshots, but for this blog post they are all courtesy of MobyGames.

Star Trek: Voyager – Elite Force

I played this FPS sometimes with Marc as a spectator, sometimes Henning. We we all well versed in the television show and the cutscenes was like watching another episode, just in a different kind of media.

2000-11-12: This is a very nice game where the story really holds up – not just about the good gameplay.

2000-12-27: I decided to complete the rest of the game alone. A PC magazine had claimed that it was a bit short and I thought I could complete it this evening, but it turned out to be longer – which was all right. The game is pretty and with interesting scripts, but it’s also quite linear and simplistic, and the first person fights are constantly in focus. The funny thing is that there are often long meetings by the Voyager’s omega table, where our hero also takes part in the long and film-style debates about what to do about a problem. It’s cute, and it’s impressive that they have managed to get everyone from the TV show to record dialog.

2000-12-28: Finally completed the game. The PC magazine claimed it was short, but I thought it was okay. It was even longer than expected, but maybe that’s because the magazine managed to give me the wrong idea. As is tradition there was of course a troublesome “mother” at the end that was a nuisance to kill, but typing in GOD in the console soon gave me much better odds. Strange that I didn’t think of this earlier, but on the other hand it did make the experience more honest. The game was well crafted and entertaining, certainly worth every penny. It was one of the better Star Trek: Voyager episodes.

TitleLengthDatesDiff / ChtSaveScore
Star Trek: Voyager – Elite Force
2000 Raven Software

7h

5

2000-11-12
2000-12-28
8

To see a page with all the PC games I have played – along with an explanation of the abbreviations – click here.

Gunman Chronicles

It was while playing this FPS that I had my epiphany that this thing, playing games and writing about them in my diary, could be my new hobby. Today I look upon it as the first step stone of three.

2000-12-10: After a slightly contrived beginning, the game started to get better and more atmospheric.

2000-12-11: I completed the second of four planets today. The game is actually quite exciting. The sounds and the voices are also top notch – there are even moments where I believe it deserved a better 3D engine than Half-Life’s. At the same time I can feel that I actually enjoy playing a game like this – I really ought to do this some more. I have previously always had a hard time allowing myself to have fun while playing games, like I should be doing something much more important.

2000-12-13: Spent all evening completing the game. Actually I thought there was another planet, but after the last battle – which was a bit “Mech Warrior”-style – credits were rolling. Still, it was an atmospheric and very entertaining experience – although the last planet did have a weak beginning. The desert levels were a bit tame, but as soon as I got down underground it was just as interesting as the previous planet where the action scenarios and the catastrophes were an important part of the story. All in all time well spent. And it was also pleasant playing a game instead of mapping. I mentioned it in the previous session, but I’m going to say it again – I really ought to do this some more.

I wish I had written something about the gun modification system as I seem to remember that it was surprisingly advanced at the time, but alas at this point the details were still very sparse.

TitleLengthDatesDiff / ChtSaveScore
Gunman Chronicles
2000 Rewolf Software

10h

4

2000-12-08
2000-12-13
8

To see a page with all the PC games I have played – along with an explanation of the abbreviations – click here.

Escape from Monkey Island

I played this together with my friend Axel while visiting him in the other end of Denmark.

2000-12: As soon as Axel’s family had left the house, we plunged into the real reason for my visit – playing this new adventure game intensively. I think we spent about 20 hours on it while I was there. We cheated a little 3-4 times during it, but I believe it was fair – some of the puzzles in the game were a bit tough and we might have spent days brooding over them otherwise.

Monday morning we managed to complete the game after a rather illogical and ridiculous sort of “monkey kombat”-ending between giant robots. The way that situation had to be solved left something to be desired from LucasArts. Still, it had been a very entertaining game with wonderful puzzles and gags. However, it did have a very controversial interface – it was all controlled with the keyboard which made our hero Guybrush Threepwood difficult to handle at times. I really missed clicking stuff with my mouse. But it wasn’t hard to figure out why it had been ditched though – it was of course because of the console versions. It was still a shame that they didn’t add an extra mouse setting for the PC platform. If I had been a reviewer of this game, I would have detracted the final rating a tick or two because of this.

TitleLengthDatesDiff / ChtSaveScore
Escape from Monkey Island
2000 LucasArts

11h

3

2000-12-16
2000-12-18
7

To see a page with all the PC games I have played – along with an explanation of the abbreviations – click here.

Rune

I started playing this game on my sister’s PC while the family was watching television. It only emphasizes that my gaming hobby wasn’t all that serious yet.

2001-02-17: While the others were watching Eurovision Song Contest on TV, I was captured by this game. It was a third person game akin to Tomb Raider, but made in the Unreal 3D engine. I had heard about this game but I just thought it was one of those mediocre “vikings with axe and sword” hack’n slash games we’ve seen so many times before. However, this one was actually different – it was very atmospheric and it felt good controlling the hero. I spent all evening (and across midnight) playing level after level. Sometimes I was swearing and cursing at the tough spots which my family next room found oddly entertaining, but as I also told them – you have to let yourself be absorbed by the experience.

2001-02-19: Spent all evening playing it. I came far – how far I can’t say, but I’m probably getting close to the end. Unfortunately I got stuck at one point and I can’t see how I can get past it.

2001-02-21: Installed a patch that fixed a bug with a door that wouldn’t open, and that solved my problem. Came much further. The game is surprisingly long. Sometimes I miss big end-of-level bosses, but maybe I’ll find something similar in the very end. At one point I was almost getting stuck again on a cliff step, but then I discovered that I could make use of big gushes of wind to fly from step to step. Neat idea.

2001-02-25: Finally completed Rune. It felt long – very long – and quite atmospheric. But it was also wasn’t all that varied, and the style was sometimes samey like Quake could be. The dark blue or brown colors were too predominant. For the most part it was the atmosphere and the sounds that kept me going.

TitleLengthDatesDiff / ChtSaveScore
Rune
2000 Human Head Studios

10h

4

2001-02-17
2001-02-25
8

To see a page with all the PC games I have played – along with an explanation of the abbreviations – click here.

The Longest Journey

My sister and I played this one together at her place, a few kilometers from my apartment. I wish I had more juicy details and opinions than this, but at least you can see from the rating that I absolutely loved it.

2001-02-24: Rode my bike down to my sister’s place and we played the beginning of this adventure game most of the day. We arrived in a dreamworld through a mirror on the wall. The game was wonderfully old fashioned, with point-and-click mouse control and the usual commands and puzzles.

2001-03-10: Birgit and I played intensively and came to the beginning of chapter 4. There are a total of 13 chapters, so it seems to be lengthy. We read a small hint in a walkthrough on the internet once or twice.

2001-03-17: We came to chapter 8, but also noticed that the length of chapters differ greatly.

There were two puzzles where we had to get help on the internet. We agreed that the first one was actually somewhat absurd. We had to place four crystals in the right order in an unlocking mechanism, but it turned out that it wasn’t enough just placing and turning them correctly – we also had to do it in the right order. A bit harsh. I was disappointed in myself regarding the second puzzle, though. We had to adjust three statues to work as “telephones”. The solution was actually quite logical – if only I had thought some more about it, I should have been able to figure it out. Never mind.

The game is extraordinarily pretty and the dialog, story and voice acting is first class. However, Birgit and I agreed that there really is too much text and speech. The developer ought to have cut down on that.

TitleLengthDatesDiff / ChtSaveScore
The Longest Journey
2000 Funcom

19h

4

2001-02-24
2001-03-18
10

To see a page with all the PC games I have played – along with an explanation of the abbreviations – click here.

The Operative: No One Lives Forever

I consider this the second step stone of three towards my gaming hobby getting serious. I started adding more details and opinions than before, although there was still room for improvements.

2001-02-25: Installed and played the beginning of The Operative: No One Lives Forever, an FPS that looks like an amalgamation of James Bond and Austin Powers. It’s intriguing and also seems to be a lot more varied than Rune. I definitely have to play this. I have decided that I want to be a much more game playing type of guy from now on. I can feel that I’m just about through with mapping in Worldcraft.

2001-03-01: Decided to check out the multiplayer parts of Rune and No One Lives Forever. The latter felt like Half-Life all over again, but it also disappointed me by killing me after falling down from a very short distance – and that with a pretty but (after a while) probably also a very annoying animation where I absolutely have to fling my arms and legs around just to make sure how much that really hurt.

2001-03-03: Tried to play some more today, but the game sometimes froze in Windows 2000 (I hope it’s not my new graphics card doing that) and I also found a stealth mission to be illogically difficult. It was very easy for the heroine to get spotted by the cameras or the guards, and then then guards were all over her like ants in an anthill. Whenever that happens, the alarm sounds in the entire camp and I’m told I have to stop it to calm down the guards. There is indeed also an alarm button to be found, but apparently it doesn’t work. It feels very much like a bug. There’s a patch on the internet but it’s quite enormous (13 MB) and it probably also doesn’t work with my alternative version of the game.

2001-03-07: I bought the original boxed version yesterday, installed it and patched it up to v1.002. My save games didn’t work anymore, but luckily there was a level ship command that could get me up to par in a jiffy. Now it was possible to shoot the guard in the blue house without sounding the alarm, but later it turned out that I didn’t escape the alarm being set off anyway. Besides, the alarm was actually never triggered by the small red button but by another one placed on a control panel a bit further down the level. Worst of all, the game still sometimes froze my Windows 2000, forcing me to reboot the entire computer.

2001-04-01: Plunged into the game again and progressed a few more levels – one of which was a level just like the beginning of the movie Octopussy with Roger Moore. The one where Bond falls out of a plane and has to fetch a parachute in midair.

2001-04-04: I could sense the inspiration of Half-Life in a level on a sinking ship. Lots of small explosions and falling poles. One of the later levels there was an underwater sequence with diving equipment and a harpoon. It was actually quite well made with bubbles, fish and just the right underwater sounds.

If I have to criticize something – apart from the choppy 3D engine – it would have to be how difficult it is to sneak around. Sometimes it feels like my enemies knows “exactly where you are” to get things going – or maybe I’m just incredibly bad at it. It’s a shame because sneaking around seems to much more stylish and entertaining. The dialog is also sometimes too bizarre and unprofessional at times. It’s clear that this is not a real television writer at work. Worst of all is the strenuous and constant disparaging from the boss about how she’s doing poorly and that women are generally not suited for this line of work anyway. It might have been all right in the beginning that she failed a few missions to set the mood, but the problem is that it goes on for far too long. Time for a few successful experiences, boys!

The best part is clearly the background music. It does a wonderful job of creating the 60’s atmosphere. The game is quite entertaining but not without its problems – and certainly not in my top five.

2001-04-07: The dialog has improved, but there are many complicated words I have never heard of before. It reminds me of when I read Lord of the Rings where I also constantly had to reach out for the dictionary. The heroine also have more successful experiences now, which was about time. I also rode a motorbike. Controlling it could have been done better – it was way too easy to sway completely off the road, just by moving the mouse ever so slightly.

2001-04-08: The difficulty level increased a lot in the later levels – especially when I had missions where I wasn’t allowed to be detected. Those could be infuriatingly tough. At one point I also passed a ridiculous part where I had to fight a big brute of a red-bearded Scotsman with my fists. I won without having to come up with any tricks – I just had to hit better than him. A tiny heroine against a bundle of muscles? I know this game is supposed to be one big parody, but come on!

2001-04-11: Finally completed the game this morning, and of course it prepared for a sequel. The defeated bad guys were tougher than they appeared which is turning out to be a predictable cliché in PC games. I have criticized the dialog earlier – it’s sophisticated, but also too much so. All too often I had to reach out for a Danish-to-English dictionary. I really don’t think that should be necessary in a video game. Think of all the young players that are not familiar with the many intricacies of the English language. But in spite of the dialog and a few ridiculous cutscenes, the game was still enormously entertaining. Most importantly, the becoming self-ironic 60’s style holds up all the way through – an very impressive achievement. And also as mentioned before, the background music is marvelous and sounds like it was grabbed right out of an episode of the old TV show The Persuaders!

TitleLengthDatesDiff / ChtSaveScore
The Operative: No One Lives Forever
2000 Monolith Productions

14h

9

2001-02-25
2001-04-11
8

To see a page with all the PC games I have played – along with an explanation of the abbreviations – click here.

Gold and Glory: The Road to El Dorado

This was really a children’s adventure game but at that time PC gaming was still very much a novelty to me. It was exciting to play pretty much anything within the genres I already liked.

2001-03-23: Started this in spite of it obviously being made for children, but even so it was still entertaining. Most of the puzzles were often too easy, but the graphics and the atmosphere were nice. It came from the same developers who also gave us Beneath a Steel Sky and Broken Sword.

2001-03-25: Completed it. It wasn’t very long, and as mentioned before the puzzles were also a bit too easy for me. But it sustained its nice atmosphere. In fact, even my friend Henning got very interested and came with suggestions in spite of already playing Birth of the Federation on his own PC.

TitleLengthDatesDiff / ChtSaveScore
Gold and Glory: The Road to El Dorado
2000 Revolution Software

6h

2

2001-03-23
2001-03-25
7

To see a page with all the PC games I have played – along with an explanation of the abbreviations – click here.

realMyst: Interactive 3D Edition

I had played the original game a few years earlier together with my friend Marc, but I don’t think we managed to complete it back then. Then I found this remake and I decided to have a go at it again.

2001-03-25: This was a remake of the old static-image Myst only this time in a real 3D engine. Spent all day playing it. Again my friend Henning got interested and came with advice – maybe there’s a small adventure gamer hidden inside of him somewhere. The game is very pretty but is using too many polygons. In the bigger island scenarios, my monster 1,2 GHz PC can barely keep up at all.

Among the pros, it’s got a great setting and the graphics are to die for. As for cons, it’s one of those open and enigmatic kind of games where you barely have an idea of what to do at all, although it’s mostly just a problem in the beginning until you get the hang of it. As the game progresses it more clear what kind of logical puzzles it throws at you. It’s also annoying when the light of day turns from bright to dark in just a few minutes. Even though it’s just as well made as the the rest of the game, it’s unbearable running around the island in the few minutes where everything is engulfed in darkness.

2001-03-26: Came a bit further this evening. Completed two problematic islands (or rather “ages” as they’re called in this game) – the main task is actually quite simple; I have to retrieve a blue and a red note from each island. These are then put into two books – one of each color – by which more information appear. The books belong to each of two sons. Something hints at the fact that the son in the blue book might have killed his father. I think only one island is left to do now.

2001-03-28: My sister Birgit was curious about the game and I showed her an earlier island. Unfortunately I overwrote my latest save game in the process. I now have to do a lot of backtracking next time. Damn it!

2001-03-29: Played some more of the game to show it to my friend Morten. Turned out I didn’t have to repeat much to get back where I was. In fact, it took almost no time when knowing what to do.

2001-04-01: I think I finished the game. Maybe. I completed all four ages plus the new bonus age “Rime” – but it had a bizarre ending. I was shown an image of Riven on a screen controlled by four colored crystals, but after that I was still in the 3D world. No switching to end credits or anything like that. A look at the internet revealed that everyone else playing the game had the same ending. Weird.

TitleLengthDatesDiff / ChtSaveScore
realMyst: Interactive 3D Edition
2000 Cyan Worlds

7h

4

2001-03-25
2001-04-01
7

To see a page with all the PC games I have played – along with an explanation of the abbreviations – click here.

American McGee’s Alice

2001-04-11: This is a 3D third person action adventure game controlling Alice in Wonderland – wearing an apron and everything. But don’t let that fool you – the game is actually quite bloody and violent. The best part is the very thoroughly surrealistic dream world which is really far out, but which also makes the game refreshingly different. However, I do have to criticize the weapons which are either too slow or downright bizarre. A rather surprising detail was that I got into a fight with a huge boss quite early in the game, and it took a long time to beat. It may suggest a difficult game if I’m going to meet a lot more of those.

Later that evening I got through a black-and-white (or red-and-white) chess world with living chess pieces.

2001-04-12: I was right – there are quite a lot of bosses in this game, which is slightly unbalanced compared to the weak weapons I’ve found. Luckily the graphics and the ingenuity is increasingly amazing and it more than makes up for the cons. The game also reloads a save game in just one second which is great for trial-and-error – and also necessary in some levels. For example, I was in a lava level balancing Alice on stones. Either I fell off or I was pulled down into the lava by an annoying lava monster. Quite annoying.

2001-04-13: In the later levels, the developers put way too powerful enemies in for my liking. It didn’t quite match my questionable selection of weapons.

In one particular level I was exposed to blowing chimneys. It was a cute idea, but again it was hurt by an absurd detail where the vents in the wall could blow Alice down as easy as nothing. Because the smoke was made as 2D sprites, it was almost impossible to coordinate my movements precisely.

Completed it later that afternoon. Unfortunately the end scene had been replaced with the logo intro from Electronic Arts. That’s one of the disadvantages of playing an alternative version of the game.

TitleLengthDatesDiff / ChtSaveScore
American McGee’s Alice
2000 Rogue Entertainment

13h

3

2001-04-11
2001-04-13
9

To see a page with all the PC games I have played – along with an explanation of the abbreviations – click here.

Heavy Metal: F.A.K.K.²

2001-04-15: Came far in this game today but also have a lot of mixed feelings about it. It’s almost as well done as American McGee’s Alice – the textures, the animations, the monsters and the graphics are top notch and certainly makes the game worth playing. On the other hand it’s incredibly frustrating regarding its monsters. The first disappointment was that I was facing a ruthless boss just a few minutes into the game. It was kind of an oversized mosquito that jabbed five meter tall spears up from the ground. Apart from being extremely difficult to kill, I also had very weak weapons at this point.

Weapons are another one of the cons. In the beginning they are just as bad as in Alice, although later in the game I did find some more reasonable things such as a Uzi, a flamethrower and a flame sword. Sadly, most of the monsters are pretty much mini bosses. They all need 10-20 shots before dying and are always very energetic. These are constantly thrown at me even when I’m supposed to explore puzzles and jump on platforms just like in Tomb Raider. In the beginning I bitched about the obvious lack of balance between puzzles, monsters and weaponry. Then finally I had enough. I opened the console and wrote GOD. It was a good idea as the waves of monsters didn’t exactly decrease over time. I wonder if I’m getting old and find these games too difficult nowadays? I know that game reviewers often criticize games for being too short. Maybe they have increased the difficulty level to artificially extend a game that could have been longer.

Sometimes I find big machinery that again reminds me of Alice, although perhaps not quite as advanced. Alice sometimes went totally overboard regarding pistons, pushers, clockworks, and much more. However, this game have more natural trees and cliff edges, and the caves are at least as pretty as in Rune.

2001-04-16: Completed the game while still having the GOD mode enabled. The levels and the graphics became increasingly impressive. The last part of the game had four tests where the number of monsters and the difficulty level also intensified. Finally I met an end-of-game boss that was so difficult to kill that I had to resort to the internet for help. The boss – a big sword wielding guy more than three times as tall as me – was actually vulnerable towards my best weapon (a chain gun) but then healed himself continuously with water. The trick was to first get his health down using the chain gun and then drain his water using another weapon suited for the purpose. Finally I got hold of his sword (which was so large that it couldn’t even fit on the screen) after which I beheaded him. The end.

By the way, the game is the second in a series after a cartoon, and it’s supposed to continue into another cartoon after that. Bizarre, right? Movie, game, movie. The game also prepared for this.

TitleLengthDatesDiff / ChtSaveScore
Heavy Metal: F.A.K.K.²
2000 Ritual Entertainment

11h

2

2001-04-15
2001-04-16
8

To see a page with all the PC games I have played – along with an explanation of the abbreviations – click here.

This was the last game with less information across sessions. For the following game, Outcast, I started writing a lot more text in general. The following blog posts in this series will be one game at a time.

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