Review: 3D Realms Anthology – Part III
For our third part of the 3D Realms Anthology Review, I sat down to play a number of platform and puzzle games featured in the collection. Some of them resemble a few games from part II, while others seemed to be aimed at the younger crowd with educational elements.
3D Realms really targeted a wide variety of game types when they put together this collection. Each group of games I play seem to play right into the different styles I know I enjoy. Take a look at the games below and see if they are targeted toward you.
Read the other parts of our review of this anthology:
Pharaoh’s Tomb & Arctic Adventure
Original release: December 14, 1990 and October 9, 1991 (respectively)
Pharaoh’s Tomb and Arctic Adventure are a pair of games released within a year of each other, with the latter being a sequel to the former. The games are identical for the most part, except a color palette change was used to depict a change in scenery. Egyptian Tombs and arctic dungeons are filled with treasure and keys, and you’re tasked with going through each room collecting it all. In your way is a number of locked doors, traps, and monsters.
As you navigate the 2D rooms, you can use projectiles (spears and/or bullets) to put down enemy obstacles all while jumping from platform to platform. The movement is considerably more interesting than the shooting mechanic, and you can get by most enemies without killing them if you study their movements and aim to avoid them in general.
I liked both these games, but they got repetitive quickly. Occasionally you’d come across a room with a really challenging environment to move through, but for the most part you can get by if you are patient. I’d recommend this one with some caution. If you love platformers, you’ll find a lot to enjoy here, but it all starts to look the same after some time.
Cosmo’s Cosmic Adventure
Original release: March 1, 1992
Cosmo is an alien with suction cups for hands who was on his way to Disney World when his ship crashed. The story really isn’t much more complicated than that, but it sets the stage for interesting environments and some generally solid platforming.
You will quickly find yourself hopping around levels collecting a whole array of items, including stars, apples, and gems. Occasionally you’ll come across a bomb power-up you can deploy, but you really don’t need them. Hopping on the heads of enemies is as good a way of defeating them as any.
The game’s environments are detailed and colorful, but that’s actually a knock on the title for me. I often found it difficult to keep track of Cosmo as I played. The developers didn’t do a good enough job making the character pop off the background enough to make him discernible, and it puts a bit of strain on the eyes.
I’d say avoid this one for that reason. The platformer plays solid, but it’s just hard to see. This was not uncommon back in the days of DOS gaming, and this title, sadly, fell prey to that trend.
Original release: February 1, 1991
Dark Ages is a fun, albeit simple, platformer. Your quest to free the land from an evil overlord will require you to enlist the help from wise men, dodging pits and traps, and avoiding creatures of many shapes and sizes as you look for each level’s escape key and door.
You can throw items at enemies, which later can be upgraded to a number of different attacks and weapons. You move quite quickly around the environments looking for each level’s key, sometimes causing you to inadvertently drop down a pit or run into a trap. You only get one life per level, so unless you get through the end of each one and receive the pass code for the next, you’ll have to start over.
This game was challenging and I’d say everyone should give it a shot. It doesn’t offer too much in terms of variety, but it’s a sound platformer regardless.
Original release: April 9, 1993
It’s clear from the get go that Monster Bash was aimed primarily at children. It stars one, after all, complete with slingshot, backwards ball cap, and onesie pajamas. As you play, however, you realize that the game has some clever nuances that spike the difficulty just right.
You play as Johnny Dash, moving through a very creepy world of monsters of all shapes and sizes. There are a number of objectives to each stage. Aside from simply getting through each stage, you’ll find animals (mostly dogs and cats) trapped in cages that you can set free with a shot from your slingshot. There are also candies to collect scattered throughout each stage, and even some heavier platforming elements, like avoiding traps and climbing towers.
This game has a bunch of unique enemies and environments, all set in a Halloween-ish setting that is fun to move through. Definitely check this game out, no matter how old you are.
Original release: February 1, 1992
You are Agent 006 (really), and you are going to infiltrate… the bad guys.
Ok, so the setup for this one is boring and entirely unoriginal, but this game has a wide array of features that make it one of the best platformers in the entire set of games this anthology offers.
Like most of the other side-scrollers in this set, you run, jump, and shoot your way through each level. This game plays almost identically to games I’ve already reviewed, frankly, but the levels are what really make it stand out against the in-family competition.
Each one has collectibles to uncover, as well as keys that unlock new areas and level exits. Various enemies are in your way, but they are all unique and offer different challenges when it comes to avoiding them or taking them out. Some come after you. Others are less intelligent and patrol certain platforms. Some are not enemies at all, but elaborate traps designed to stop agents from sneaking around.
Everything is very colorful and just about every platforming convention is put into play at some point. I loved playing this game, because it was never the same challenge twice. Coupled with some funny spins on secret agent shtick, Secret Agent turned out to be one of the best games in this batch.
Word Rescue and Math Rescue
Original release: May 1, 1992 and October 1, 1992 (respectively)
Both Word Rescue and Math Rescue are educational games wrapped in the cloak of a platformer. It excels as an education platform for math and reading, but it falls flat as a platformer. Honestly, though, at the time I think that may have been a positive thing for both games.
Both games let you pick your character (a boy or girl) and navigate around environments triggering puzzles to solve as you progress. In Word Rescue, you are presented with a word and asked to find the picture of the word somewhere else in the level. In Math Rescue you are asked to solve math problems of varying difficulty, ranging from simple addition and subtraction to word problems. Math Rescue has a little more replay value, as it has settings for different age ranges and math skill levels.
In the early 90s these games may have had their place in the education space, but in 2015 I would imagine educational software is much more engaging and effective. The platforming itself it only a means to more spelling or math work, making it an afterthought most of the time.
If you can read this review, these games are not for you. They were made for young developing minds and not for gamers. And even if you do have kids, I would not go into the 3D Realms anthology for these titles. I’m guessing most of you parents have better educational games at your disposal. Don’t get me wrong, these are by no means bad games, but I think they were made in a time where they were more effective as education tools, and now that time has passed.
Part 3 Wrap-up:
There were only a couple of great titles in this selection, but not to worry. This entire collection has proven to have a considerable number of great titles to choose from, even if they aren’t all aimed at the same audience.
Stay tuned to LevelSave for coverage of the 3D Realms Anthology!
The 3D Realms Anthology was provided to LevelSave for review purposes and was played on a PC via Steam.