Review by AJBuwalda
"Back when graphics did not mean anything"
I remember a day, long ago, when a free game came out. This game was not popular, due to it's graphics, rather than it's randomness and gameplay. It was called Nethack, a RPG created completely out of ASCII-art.
This was nothing new in these days, because almost every game in those days was like that and nobody cared. But there was something special about this game. It had so much depth, that it sucked you in and would not let you go.
It was kind of like Rogue, another game from those days. The difference with Rogue is that Nethack is STILL in development(about 20 years and counting). It can be downloaded at www.nethack.org.
In the game you have to explore a dungeon and defeat loads of creatures and solve many puzzles. This gives the ASCII a depth seen before (in ASCII I mean).
Back in the day that I played it ASCII was not that rare as now, with all the insane photo realistic graphics and such. You are displayed on the screen as a white @ and other creatures with other letter and signs.
This works perfectly as you can imagine everything yourself. If you are in a battle with enormous fire breathing dragon and it looks like a pet lizard it kind of takes away a lot of the suspense. The levels themselfs are really clear and to the point. So in your head everything is perfect.
Graphics 10/10 (depends on imagination)
This is the beauty of the sound: THERE IS NON. There for your imagination is put to the test again. In my head swords clash, dragons roar and and goblins sqweel with a high-pitch voice. I can imagine that not everybody, has the same level of imagination, but in those days you didn't have much choice.
Anyway, if you can ''feel'' the story when reading a book, you know how characters sound and look in your head, then you will be quite content with this games' sound.
Sound 10/10 (depends on imagination)
This is where the game shines in all it's glory. I tell you, you can do nearly anything in this game. You want to write on the ground with a stick? That's ok as long as you have got the intelligence for it! You can't get trough a door because it's locked? Why, by all means, kick the door in! The option are nearly limitless.
But all this can only be done properly with good nutrition, because you can die of hunger in this game. And how does one eat when one is in a dungeon? You can't go to a store in the first couple of levels, so how do you get food? By eating you slayen enemies, of course! But watch out, because some of them are poisonous.
The best part of the game is that the maps are TOTALLY RANDOM. Every time you start a new game the map will be totally different, you will have different quests and (if you chose) your character as well. In my personal opinion, there's nothing like being a valkyrie and throwing Thor's lightning hammer (Mjollnir) around and (if your level is high enough) catching it in it's return flight. Enough depth for anyone.
All I can say is after 20 years this game still doesn't get boring. That should stand for something. If you ask a older gamer about Nethack he we dream back to the days where he showed of his level 44 valkyrie to his friends and one of them dared to start the discussion that the Knight is better.
This game, even when played through several times, still remains great and though. Anyone saying that this game sucks due to it's lack of sound and modern graphics, has not got the right to call himself a gamer.
This game is free for download at WWW.NETHACK.ORG. Go there, download it. It's available for all platforms, even Amiga and Atari. It has depth and challenges you to use your imagination for once. If you can do that, then you won't be disappointed.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 01/22/04
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