I grew up with computer games, my childhood dovetailing with the coming of home computers. Manic Miner, Attic Atac, Jetpac on the Spectrum. Later Supercars, Lotus Elise Turbo Challenge and Way of the Exploding Fist on the Amiga; Lemmings and Commander Keen on our vile home PC; Silent Hill, Resident Evil and Crash Bandicoot on the Playstation. All the way up to Gears of War, Halo, Grand Theft Auto and Forza Motorsport these days, with the occasional late-night detour into Age Of Empires.
My love of gaming and need for cash led to me reviewing computer games for a number of years back in the day. I’m not sure how many I’ve played over the years. Definitely hundreds. Probably into the thousands. But certain games always stick with me – to the point where I will revisit games I first played decades ago.
Many of those games were developed or published by Psygnosis, latterly SCE Studio Liverpool. Sony announced the closure of the studio today after almost 30 years of publishing some of the most heralded games to hit their respective platforms. In the case of a handful they’re landmarks of video gaming.
As a result I’ve compiled five great games that Psygnosis published. I’m not claiming they’re the best, but they’re five games that I have a personal connection with.
So long, Psygnosis, and thanks for all those wasted, brilliant hours of fun.
Platform: Amiga (originally)
One of the most well-known games series in computer game history? Perhaps.
When it first came out Lemmings was one of those games that seemed to represent something of paradigm shift in gaming – people who weren’t interested in computers or gaming loved Lemmings.
It had a catchy soundtrack made up of classical soundalikes and looked a bit weird but, crucially, it boasted complex and witty gameplay that made it unlike anything that had gone before: a kind of real-time strategy puzzler.
Originally a hit on the Amiga, Lemmings got ported to virtually every other platform going and has spawned imitators and sequels alike.
It’s simply a stone cold classic of gaming.
The Killing Game Show
Hardly a landmark in video games or a classic of the genre, but one that kept me occupied for several weeks in the early 90s.
The Killing Game Show was a fairly straightforward scrolling (albeit with a parallax layer) arcade shooter – shoot things, collect things, climb things before you run out of time – it’s classic Psygnosis gaming of the era: looks good, memorable soundtrack and good, honest gameplay.
The Colony Wars series comprised incredibly addictive space dogfight games that riffed off Star Wars, added a dash of Dune and just a hint of Babylon 5.
With impressive cutscenes and an excellent soundtrack that lend an almost cinematic scope, plus a system of ship upgrading by the time Red Sun (avoid the useless shields and gauss gun) – the final part of trilogy – came out, Colony Wars stands up today for its straightforward but dynamic gameplay and enjoyable plots.
I played it so much I can still remember the noise of the afterburner – and the voice of the spectral ‘engram’ who directs missions in Red Sun.
Developed by fellow Liverpool studio, Bizarre Creations, the Formula One series was never a genuine classic of racing games, but for gamers keen to race as their favourite F1 star (did anyone ever race as the hapless Taki Inoue, I wonder?) and race F1 cars notionally tuned to ape the real thing at real-world circuits, the official Formula One series was a must.
Add in commentary from Murray Walker, soundtracks made in Liverpool and a decent engine and the game was a solid effort. Later iterations – continuing until 2007 when Sony lost the rights – improved steadily in the gameplay and graphics stakes.
Psygnosis reinvents the racing genre and creates what might end up as the game with which the studio is most associated.
Yes it’s a racing game, but it’s set in the future and you’ll be racing anti-grav ships around the world, accompanied by a bleeding-edge dance soundtrack. What follows is a highly kinetic gaming experience with arguably more mainstream appeal than other racers.
Tellingly, the Wipeout series is still going strong, with the latest iteration out on the poor-selling Vita platform earlier this year. It was the last game Studio Liverpool published.