This review is going to be a bit different than our previous reviews, simply for the fact that the 3D Realms Anthology contains a whopping 32 classic Apogee/3D Realms games! Since most of these games may be familiar to you, our 3D Realms Anthology review will take a quick look at each game in the collection.
Alien Carnage/Halloween Harry
A classic from way back in 1994 Alien Carnage is a side scroller in which you play as Halloween Harry and are tasked with taking on humans-turned-zombie with your trusty flamethrower. Featuring four levels, you travel through the Sewers, Factory, Office Block, and finally the Alien Ship rescuing hostages and finding new weapons like guided missiles, shields, photon cannons and more.
Controls are fairly straightforward, left and right arrow keys to move, up arrow to use your jetpack or access a weapons cache, space to switch weapons, and z to fire. Overall the game runs just fine in the DOSBox shell and I had no issues running it in windowed or fullscreen mode.
Another four episode side scroller, Arctic Adventure, you play as the character Nevada who must follow up a tomb find with a new treasure find to prove to your colleagues that it wasn’t beginner’s luck. This time you hear news of a Viking map that was torn into four pieces and must be recovered in order to find the secret treasure cave.
In each episode, there are multiple levels where you must jump from platform to platform, finding switches to unlock blocks, coins, and access new areas. You’ll need to find a pick axe to access a key in order to exit each dungeon, and can shoot enemies with bullets. Once you die however, you start at the beginning of each level with no gear and must start over. Be careful though, the enemy bullets are pretty hard to see and aren’t much bigger than a 5×5 pixel block.
The controls are simple enough, space to jump, and F to shoot and there’s not much more to it than that for this game.
Balls of Steel
First released in 1997, Balls of Steel will appease your pinball fix. Featuring 5 distinct tables – Barbarian, Dark Side, Duke Nukem, Firestorm, and Mutation!, the game does add a bit of blood and gore but does include pretty realistic pinball physics.
Controls are as expected and can be customized easily in case you’re not a fan of the left shift/right shift pinball controls and the board can be viewed in a follow the ball mode or with the entire table on screen. The follow ball mode can get a bit dizzying though, while viewing the entire table on the screen doesn’t give you the closest view possible as it only uses half the screen and you don’t feel quite as “in the game” as with the follow mode.
Balls of Steel is a fun little pinball game that should keep you busy for a few hours – if not for the Duke Nukem themed table alone.
Fight mutants and robots as Snake Logan in this 1993 classic from Apogee. Another game running under DOSBox, Bio Menace features 3 parts with increasing difficulty. Collect keys to open doors and enter broken windows to discover areas with weapon upgrades and gems which you can collect to gain extra lives.
Controls can be customized as well, with the arrow keys being the default movement keys, ctrl for jump, alt for fire, and enter to use your grenades.
One of my favourite aspects of Bio Menace is the music and sound effects – a definate trip down memory lane!
Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold & Blake Stone: Planet Strike
First released in 1993 with the follow up almost a year later in 1994, Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold and Blake Stone: Planet Strike are Wolfenstein 3D engine based games that take you into the future. They both run and play well under DOSBox, and if you’re a fan of Wolfenstein 3D or Doom, these two games will definitely curb your appetite.
Cosmo’s Cosmic Adventure
You may have missed this one back in the early 1990’s, but it’s definitely another fun platformer with a bit of a twist. In Cosmo’s Cosmic Adventure you play as Cosmo (of course). On his way to Disney World with his parents, their spaceship crashes and as a result Cosmo finds himself on an unknown planet searching for his parents. Unlike most other platformers of the time, Cosmo attacks by jumping on enemies and through the use of bombs. Cosmo is also equipped with suction cup hands which allow him to climb and stick to surfaces to avoid danger.
As with most platformers, the control system is pretty basic and the various levels across the three episodes should keep you entertained for a while.
Crystal Caves takes you underground seeking treasure in this side scrolling platformer. There is definitely a wide range of traps and enemies to avoid, and Mylo (the main character) even has the ability to walk upside down. With just under 50 levels spread across 3 unique episodes, the game does scale quite a bit in difficulty after the first level but is still fun nonetheless. Not a bad little game, but definitely not the best in the colletion.
In Dark Ages, you are seeking to restore order to your Great Kingdom as you seek out Gareth, the warlord who killed your father to take over the kingdom. Your main method of attack is a magical energy bolt, and again the control scheme is pretty standard. Unfortunately there’s nothing really grabbing or notable about this title in the collection, and it can get a bit tough and frustrating at times.
Death Rally (Classic)
For the racing fans, Death Rally is definitely a classic top down racing game in which you must race and shoot your way through the track in order to win by any means necessary. There are 6 different cars to choose from – each featuring a different weapon. Each car can be upgraded with additional armour, mines, and more to give you an advantage on one of the 19 available tracks.
Car controls consist of using the a and z keys to accelerate or brake, left/right arrow keys to turn, shift to boost, control to shoot, and alt to drop a landmine. Oh, and of course spacebar to honk your horn! Death Rally has three difficulty levels and is definitely a fun racing game with plenty of action.
Duke Nukem/Duke Nukem 2/Duke Nukem 3D/Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project
The meat of any 3D Realms/Apogee collection. Even though these games are available in other collections for $10 and $25USD, if you’re remotely interested in a few of the other games in this collection the cost per game goes down dramatically.
All four games in the Duke Nukem series are included including the side scrolling Duke Nukem and Duke Nukem 2, the Wolfenstein 3D/Doom styled Duke Nukem 3D, and lastly 2002’s Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project. There is no arguing that these are classic games from the past, and all played well and took up most of my time while reviewing the games in this collection. They should keep you occupied until the next Duke Nukem never comes out.
Once again focusing on magic, Hocus Pocus features Hocus, a young wizard who must face ghosts, imps, dragons, demons, and other creatures on his way to becoming a full Wizard. Different potions give you the ability to teleport, jump higher, shoot faster, or even unleash a huge energy blast.
It’s not a bad little game, with 36 levels, four boss fights, and puzzles to solve in each level.
Now we’re talking! Top down armored spacecraft shooter action is the name of the game in Major Stryker, precursor to Raptor: Call of Shadows which came out a year later. The premise is simply, war has broken out again due to the invasion of aliens and it is your duty as part of Earth’s unified military force to survive wave after wave of Kreton attacks.
Standard controls once again, arrow keys to move, space to bomb, and alt to shoot. Simple, but still pretty fun after all these years with three planets and three difficulty levels to choose from.
Unless you’re younger – and I mean age 6+ younger – you’ll be skipping Math Rescue for sure. An educational side scrolling adventure game, this one tests your math skills and allows you to set the type of problems you solve as you journey through the levels solving math problems along the way in order to snag back the numbers the Gruzzles are stealing. Three different zones allow you to play undersea, in space, or amongst volcanoes.
Rating: 7/10 (for educational value)
Oh no! Your pet dog has been kidnapped and you must venture forth as Johnny to find him and rescue other pets along the way. Johnny’s main attack is a slingshot which can shoot rocks, fireballs, and more at the various monsters and zombies that fill the many levels. In Monster Bash you can run, crawl, fly on a broom, and climb your way through the different levels.
If the levels don’t seem hard enough, the bosses sure do and it takes a bit of figuring out to find out how to defeat them making this one a bit of a challenge at times.
Monuments of Mars
Going way back with Monument of Mars, you are sent by NASA to investigate the surface of Mars after a group of astronauts disappears. Featuring 4 parts in total, this side scroller was perhaps the simplest of them all with only 20 levels and 4 AMAZING colours used throughout the entire game. The best part though is the fact that you have unlimited lives so you could pretty much brute force your way through the levels if you had to.
Worth a play through simply to see what games from back in 1990 looked like!
Another magic based game, Mystic Towers has you navigating through 540 rooms as Baron Baldric as you take on the dark forces that have overtaken the Lazarine Towers. The game features a more 3D style as opposed to a 2D side scroller and you can jump, interact with switches, open doors, and climb ladders as you use your spells to attack, find and heal your way through the adventure.
Mystic Towers was a refreshing change up for the many 2D side scrolling platformers in this collection and provided some interesting puzzles to solve and monsters to face.
Back to the side scrolling adventure platformers, Paganitzu was one I hadn’t heard of. With three parts – Romancing the Rose, The Silver Dagger, and Jewel of the Yucatan, you must guide Alabama Smith across the various rooms as you make your way through an Aztec pyramid. The nice thing about this one was the story made it actually feel like an adventure, while there were multiple routes through the pyramid to get to your final objectives. Due to the multiple ways to finish it, Paganitzu offers up a bit of replayability should you choose to go back and explore the Aztec pyramid again.
Another early side scroller, Pharoah’s Tomb pretty much feels and plays like Monuments of Mars, just in a different setting with different monsters.
Raptor: Call of the Shadows
One of my all time favourite classics, Raptor: Call of the Shadows is another top down aerial shooter. Make your way through wave after wave of enemy fighters, tanks, helicopters, AA guns, and more until you face off against the level boss. The game does get increasingly more difficult and is a great challenge as some of the previous bosses will show up as mini-bosses.
Realms of Chaos
Realms of Chaos features three chapters which span three different realms with different enemies, traps, and challenges. YASSP (yet another side scrolling platformer), this one changes it up a bit by allowing you to control Endrick – a warrior – and Elandra – a sorceress – and switching between them based on the threat you currently face.
Realms of Chaos also features five difficulty levels to make it as easy or hard as you want.
Rise of the Triad: Dark War
Another Wolfenstein 3D type game, Rise of the Triad: Dark War is actually three versions of the game in one: Rise of the Triad: The HUNT Begins, Rise of the Triad: Dark War, and finally Extreme Rise of the Triad. The first is actually a shareware version with a couple exclusive levels, and the last is a crazy expansion pack that quite frankly takes extreme to a new level.
In RotT:DW you can choose from 5 different HUNT agents to play as, each one with different speed, accuracy, and health stats. While you can use the mouse with this game, I’d recommend against it as it requires pushing the mouse forward, lifting it up before placing it back down only to push it forward in order to move your character. To be honest, I totally forgot about the days of mouse push/lift movement!
Aside from that, there’s not too much different than other Wolfenstein 3D type games, but if you’re a fan of them at least it mixes things up a bit story and graphics wise when you need a break from the others.
Another old action platformer, Secret Agent has various levels and pretty big maps to traverse. In this one you play as Agent 006 and must secure the plans for a satellite laser weapon on a high-security island outpost. Secret Agent also features a nice mix of traps, puzzles, and your standard baddies to kill along the way.
Shadow Warrior (Classic)
A slightly refreshing Wolfenstein 3D type game, Shadow Warrior sees you running for your life as Lo Wang after you quit working for your corrupt boss. One of the interesting new components is the ability to use beams to get above your enemies in some rooms, as well as being able to swim, climb ladders, and drive vehicles through walls.
Unfortunately this game wouldn’t launch as it was claiming it couldn’t find DOSBox but I could launch it using the source port which, while it ran, felt a bit laggy and the audio was distorted in some places.
Aside from that, it’s pretty much standard FPS action.
Rating: 6/10 (due to not launching properly)
A side scrolling spaceship shooting game, Stargunner is the only one of its type in this collection. As a member of the elite Ytimian “Stargunner” squad, you must avert a strike against your planet from the neighbouring Zilions. Shooting enemies will drop power ups or credits which you can then spend to upgrade your ship. It’s pretty basic, but fun and has 34 levels across four different episodes: Scout, Stellar, Terran, and Aquatic with plenty of enemies and 33 bosses to face.
Another game with the only of its kind in this collection, Terminal Velocity is a first person flight shooter simulator, but with a super easy control system. You pilot the TV-202, a fast fighter plane, as you take on enemy craft from other star systems that are trying to take over Earth. Terminal Velocity is fast paced with a few different level types and enemies as you progress through the game.
I never did play this one 20 years ago, but enjoyed the chance to play it and see how far flight combat simulator games have come!
Another racing game, this time one in the vein of Super Mario Kart which has you racing as an animal… with wheels. It’s definitely wacky as the title implies, and features point of view racing as you speed, bump others, avoid obstacles, and launch weapons at others in order to gain every advantage you can. With 42 tracks and eight different animals to choose from, it’s good for at least a few hours of racing entertainment.
The precursor to the above mentioned Math Rescue, this is another one you’ll be skipping or passing on to your kids. In this side scrolling platformer, the Gruzzles are stealing words from books because… we’ll they can’t read so they don’t want anyone else to either. Kids can find the missing words as they help Benny the Bookworm stop the Gruzzles from stealing all the words.
Rating: 7/10 (for educational value)
Xenophage: Alien Bloodsport
And finally we round out the collection with Xenophage: Alien Bloodsport – a wacky little combat game with story, free play, and training modes. The story mode is a bit weird as well – you are fighting for the propagation rights of the species of your world for the amusement of the Council Chamber.
While the game runs pretty smoothly graphic wise it was pretty tough to pull off combos and turned more or less into a key masher. You also have to keep the environment in mind as there are a few surprises in each one that can be detrimental to you or your opponent. You can also set the level of gore in the game so you can make it as tame or as bloody as you want. You only get to choose from 8 characters, but then again this is a 20 year old game we’re talking about and some of the fighters had some pretty interesting looks and abilities.
Aside from Duke Nukem, Duke Nukem 2, and Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project, all the games are only available on Steam in this collection. Currently priced at $39.99USD/$43.99CAD, that works out to roughly $1.25USD/$1.40CAD per game – definitely not a bad price for a trip down memory lane. All the games ran without issue (aside from Shadow Warrior), and you’ll get your money’s worth with this collection with titles like Duke Nukem, Raptor, Blake Stone, Balls of Steel, Terminal Velocity, and Death Rally. Overall, the 3D Realms Anthology is a fun and extremely affordable trip down memory lane.Purchase 3D Realms Anthology on Steam
***We were sent a review copy of the 3D Realms Anthology for the purposes of this review.
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