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All PS1 Games In Order: Part 027

An explanation of what we're doing here can be found in my introduction post.

Last week, we made our way through the mid-June '96 releases with Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors, NAMCO Museum Vol. 1, Epidemic, and International Track & Field.

We've now reached the final few games of June, and will be wrapping up our time with the PS1 in the second quarter of 1996. We've encountered something of a parting shot from European game developers, so let's take our punishment in stride as we look at Olympic Summer Games, True Pinball, Fade to Black, and Shellshock.

**This post is also featured on my site,, and can be found here.**


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Olympic Summer Games

Developer: Silicon Dreams

Publisher: U.S. Gold

Release Date: 6/18/1996

Time to We'd Expect More From An Athlete Of His Level: 39 Minutes

I promised more Olympics games and here we are. There are only so many things a developer can do with this format, and we're already running into those limits with this game. Though, I've found the sparse background information on this thing to be more interesting than the end product itself.

I have a negative Pavlovian reaction to seeing U.S. Gold in the Publisher column, considering the truly godawful products they put out for the PS1 and Saturn leading up to this point. So, I finally went and did a little bit of poking. Turns out that company had been in the business of importing American PC games to Britain in the 80's. That would have made sense as an arbitrage opportunity in the pre-DOS world, and they found success doing so. By the time the 90's rolled around they had branched out into original publishing of British developed games onto the Amiga and Sega platforms. That's how we've, sadly, wound up seeing their name on various games published in North America. The interesting part is where Olympic Summer Games comes in. This is one of the first games worked on by Silicon Dreams, which was the name given to the internal development team spun up by U.S. Gold's owners. This would have been a logical next step for them as a publishing house, except with the twist that U.S Gold would cease to exist by the end of 1996. They had been bought by Eidos back in April and were in the process of liquidation by the time this game came out. Though, one of the founders of U.S. Gold turned around and repaid some of their buyout money to reacquire the Silicon Dreams team. He would then run it as an independent studio pumping out Soccer games until finally giving up the ghost in 2003. This is a small and kinda obscure story, but it's one piece of the larger picture that was the collapse and consolidation of British game development in the 90's.

Borderline unplayable
Borderline unplayable

As for Olympic Summer Games, it's a miserably terrible experience. The basic gameplay works similarly to Konami's Track & Field games, but worse. Additionally, the minigame design is extremely spotty, it's significantly uglier than International Track & Field, and the few innovations it offers are either poorly implemented or wrong-headed. There are 15 events here, including the standard running, jumping, and throwing minigames with the addition of a couple of shooting events, fencing, and weightlifting. The controls are supposedly simple, but the UI in the events themselves sometimes makes it extremely unclear what it is you're supposed to do. This leads to frustration in addition to the hand pain. Matters aren't helped by the biggest decision around how the events are presented. There are 30 competitors for every event: the player and 29 AI jerks. The default setting of this game is to show every entrant's performance in every round of every event. Even skipping past the AI's turns, it still causes the events to drag out interminably. There also isn't any way to quit mid-event, so you end up stuck in your own personal hell of watching this game play itself. Did I mention how bad this thing looks? The audio design is also largely mediocre, with the handful of canned announcer lines getting old very quickly.

As for positive points, I guess the marksmanship event is kinda neat. It's a tightly timed target shooting minigame where the reticule jumps after every shot. There are also an abundance of game modes, even if they all basically involve identical gameplay. I think that's it. U.S. Gold likely made the previous gen versions of this game first and tried to shove polygonal graphics into that framework. That's what I'll tell myself, at least.


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True Pinball

Developer: Digital Illusions

Publisher: Ocean

Release Date: 6/24/1996

Time to Becoming A Multi-Baller: 23 Minutes

Next, we have another genre that is difficult to write about: Virtual Pinball. We've already looked at a couple of these, Last Gladiators and Extreme Pinball, and both are underwhelming, to put it nicely. The good news is that True Pinball offers the most realistic pinball experience so far, the bad news is that it's massively uninteresting.

There are four generic tables on offer in this package, which seems to be the standard for these things, Law & Justice, Babewatch, Extreme Sports, and Vikings. I wasn't joking about the generic part. I would normally rank the tables, like I did for the last two of these, but there's so little differentiation in the experience that I physically couldn't. I guess Babewatch is the best table, for what that's worth. Other than the basically ok table designs, the ball physics seems to work well enough, though this thing experiences the perennial problem of only showing part of the table you're playing and panning up and down following the ball. It largely looks fine enough, except for some wonky polygonal effects on the Law & Justice table. Let's see, what else…it has sound, which is something, and the menu design makes me irrationally angry for reasons I don't fully grasp. I have nothing further to add, reviewing these Pinball games is going to get increasingly difficult as we go on.

Somehow the best table
Somehow the best table

So, with more space to fill, let's talk about Ocean. This is another British publisher of similar lineage to Psygnosis and U.S. Gold, and like those companies it did not survive the fall of the Amiga without being bought out. Whereas Psygnosis would be bought early and continue largely unmolested under Sony until the turn of the century, and U.S. Gold suffered the fate we discussed above, Ocean was in the process of being bought and merged with Infogrames at the time of this game's release. They were allowed to release products under their own name until '98 when they were fully subsumed by their French overlords. There isn't much to mourn here as, outside of Britain, Ocean was largely associated with bad licensed games, including the game with the all-time most disproportionate difference in quality between its gameplay and music. Someone who isn't me needs to do a deep analysis of the decline in the British game industry during the 90's.

Also, even though the publisher is British, the development studio for this thing, Digital Illusions, is some small weirdo Swedish development house. They largely just made Pinball games for the Amiga up until this point, and I'm sure they will never go on to do anything important ever.


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Fade to Black

Developer: Delphine Software

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Release Date: 6/28/1996

Time to Space Men Can't Jump: 35 Minutes

Here's the thing, I've never played Flashback or Another World. I have no nostalgia for that brief window of rotoscoped side-scrolling games, such as the original Prince of Persia. I also don't imagine any of them have aged too well; even without playing them I've heard of the animation priority issues and questionable level/puzzle design. You would think that background experience should be important when playing the direct sequel to Flashback, right? Guess again! 3D game design makes all of that irrelevant; the future is now, old man.

While I don't think the plot of the first Flashback matters in any way whatsoever, I at least need to acknowledge the basics. You play as some guy named Conrad who goes through a super spy adventure on an alien planet with some Total Recall/They Live stuff going on, the end of which involves blowing up said planet and committing some casual space genocide. He flies away in a spaceship and the game ends with him going into a cryo nap, because Alien was a good movie. Now, because Aliens was also a good movie, we find our favorite space war criminal awoken from his nap fifty years later and immediately thrown in prison by the aliens whose planet he blew up. Also, those aliens have conquered Earth and that prison, named New Alcatraz because this is the most unserious plot imaginable, is on the moon. That's all the necessary information for the set-up.

I bet you're wondering how I got here
I bet you're wondering how I got here

This thing is played as a behind-the-back Third Person Action game and is entirely polygonal. This will become something of a default genre for PS1 games, but we haven't seen much of it so far. In that sense, this initially feels like a much more modern game than its contemporaries. Yet, after spending a few minutes with it, you can see where the Flashback design philosophy has informed the entire experience. This thing originally came out for PCs in '95, and so its controls are informed more by that earlier French game, Alone in the Dark. That's to say this thing uses very clunky pre-Resident Evil tank controls. A lot of the clunkiness here comes from a moving forward of the motion-captured style animations pioneered by the previous games. This means animations for sidestepping, jumping, and environment interactions are canned and take a while. While that's potentially charming in 2D, it doesn't fly in this new polygonal world.

I didn't make it through the first act, which is the prison escape, because I lost patience trying to figure out what was going on with the infinite spawning enemy room. Also, this is technically supposed to be a shooter. The combat works by readying your weapon in kind of a Resident Evil way and waiting for the lock-on targeting to get a fix before shooting. There's infinite ammo, so that's not a consideration. It's barebones to the point of not serving much of a purpose. Aside from that, the puzzles aren't so much puzzles as just wandering around until you get to the next event trigger. There really isn't anything to recommend this experience. In fact, I began to actively hate the thing during a short jumping section, where you have to do horizontal jumps around patches of electrified floor. Touching those floor tiles even slightly does an instant kill, and the in-game saving is weird and awkward to the point where I would have given up if not for save states.

The worst platforming you can possibly imagine
The worst platforming you can possibly imagine

So, playing Fade to Black is a chore and the story isn't worth consideration. If you need any more convincing of that last point, the name of the guy who busts you out of the prison cell at the beginning is named John O'Conner. It's kind of amazing how bad this thing is, though it apparently sold enough copies in PAL territories to go platinum. Yet that wouldn't do the developer much good, as DSI would have to move to creating cash-in racing games before shutting down in 2004. You shouldn't feel too sad about that, since this is also the studio that put out Shaq Fu in-between Flashback and this game. I dunno, thinking about this thing makes me kinda mad, so I'll stop.

Oh, and while "Fade to Black" is a great song, it's still maybe only my third favorite track off of Ride the Lightning.


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Developer: Core Design

Publisher: US Gold

Release Date: 6/30/1996

Time to Fo' Shizzle, Innit: 25 Minutes

We've finally reached the last game of June '96, and it's definitely something. We've seen Core Design before with Thunderhawk 2 the previous year, and we'll see them again with a video game worth consideration later in '96. For now, though, we have to deal with whatever it was they were trying to do with this thing.

It took a couple of minutes for me to figure out that the premise seems to be "What if the A-Team was Hip Hop." I could see that potentially working as a skit on The Chapelle Show, but this game treats itself mostly seriously. There's a narrow path where that could be fun or ok, but remember this thing was developed in frickin' Derbyshire. Semi-ironic Blaxploitation is a genre that white people should dabble in with the utmost caution or not at all. Nothing in Shellshock comes across as malicious, so it was likely a sincere but misguided effort. With all the everything around the presentation, I had a hard time putting much thought into the almost-nothing gameplay systems.


Once you get past the budget conscious opening cutscenes and hub area, you get into the game's missions. This is a very straightforward first-person tank shooter. Contemporary reviewers compared it to Battlezone, and that's basically it. The environments are semi-destructible and navigating the tank feels terrible, but otherwise it's just that. There's a massive disconnect between the effort going into the aesthetic and the effort that went into the gameplay. I'm almost reminded of Johnny Bazookatone in that regard. This game is more fleshed out and explicable than that one, but that's saying very little. There seems to be some kind of tank upgrade system that you could eventually engage with, but the act of driving and shooting the tank is so completely unenjoyable that no extra systems would have made it worthwhile. I shouldn't have expected more from a game published during U.S. Gold's death throes, but still.

Turns out the game is just this
Turns out the game is just this

I didn't go into detail on the characters, stylistic choices, or the voice acting because I don't know if it's my place to do so. Since Core would almost immediately go on to bigger and better things, no one at the time put much thought into this game. It was forgotten quickly enough that its whole thing has gone undiscussed, and someone should probably do that. I'm going to revisit this thing on the Saturn, so maybe I'll have something to say then.


Turns out the first half of '96 ended more with a death rattle than a bang. Regardless, we made it through. Not only that, but we also got past game #100 and passed the one-year mark of this blog series. This momentous event comes with added difficulties, mainly the item limit on the Giantbomb list feature, which means I had to put together a Google Sheet to hold the sheer girth of the Ranking of All PS1 Games. With the changeover in place, let's update that list and move on.

1. Air Combat

54. True Pinball

68. Shellshock

82. Fade to Black

87. Olympic Summer Games

101. World Cup Golf: Professional Edition

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There were 52 games released for the PS1 in the first six months of '96, and it's kinda been a lot. As such, we're going to take next week to stop and look back on those games in a mid-year-round-up. We'll check in with how the console war is going, run some numbers, initiate box art discourse, and more!

Before that, I'll get the next entry out for All 3DO Games (Kinda) In Order, where we'll be looking at the next batch of 3DO games in 1994: Burning Soldier, Demolition Man, Jammit, Supreme Warrior, and Super Street Fighter II Turbo.

After next week, I'll be taking a one-week break before picking back up with the Saturn so that we can see what Sega was up to at the same time all this was happening with the PS1. We'll kick that off with the April '96 releases of X-Men: Children of the Atom, Panzer Dragoon II Zwei, and Guardian Heroes.


I wound up receiving only one anonymous question, which I suppose is more of a prompt:

Q: Describe your perfect sandwich.

A: This was the incorrect question to ask, as I am a person of simple tastes. Just give me meat and cheese between some bread. I’ll use this opportunity to provide a small anecdote, however. When I was younger, I worked at a university owned eatery for a couple of years, and I would make myself lunch during my federally mandated breaks. One of the things I would make was a sandwich on a kaiser roll bun that had, in order: a hamburger patty, pepper jack cheese, bacon, red onions, and pulled pork with some salt and pepper on top. My coworkers thought it was weird and named the sandwich after me. If you're wondering about the healthiness of that meal, I was young and had a strong constitution.

Also, I stream twice a week over on my twitch channel: We're diving into the depravity of the 3DO and continuing my hare-brained scheme to play every PS1 RPG to completion.