Oct 21, 2007

[Games] A Tribute to Bullfrog Productions

Bullfrog Productions LogoIn recent weeks, I've gotten into this nostalgic craving of sorts to play some rather classic games. Eventually, I figured out a common thread between all of them - they were all games created by the now-defunct gaming company, Bullfrog Productions, now pretty much part of what is now know as EA UK.

So similar to what I previous did for the Terminator series of movies, I thought it might be fun to take another stroll down memory lane and pay tribute to some of my favorite Bullfrog games.

PopulousThe first Bullfrog game I ever played was the god game Populous. The game was pretty cool in concept - you played a god in the grand style of the Greek pantheon of old and you shaped the destiny of your people. It's no wonder that one of the prime people behind Bullfrog later on helped spawn Black & White under the masthead of Lionhead Studios. Black & White was another game I heavily got into given somewhat latent messianic tendencies in my deeper psyche, haha.

SyndicateI have to admit early on I was a scared gamer of sorts - the greater the action and risk, the more I felt intimidated to continue on. However the concepts and stories behind the games continued to push me to try harder. A great example of a game that tested my limits was Syndicate, a strategy game that had you controlling 4 cybernetically-enchanced assassins that you sent on various missions as you tried to take over the world. It had everything - a cool cyberpunk-style backstory, a wide arsenal of weapons and lots and lots of violence. The game always made me nervous, but then it was addicting.

Magic CarpetPushing my tension envelop further was the action-packed simulation game Magic Carpet. It was a game that tested the limits of our 486 computer at the time given its dynamic graphics set in a 3D world. This was not kiddie game despite it's misleading title - you played a wizard trying to restore the world to equilibrium by gathering enough mana to do so. This involved killing creatures and enemy wizards while collecting them via hot air balloons. Despite how strange that sounds, it was an amazingly fun game for its time.

Theme ParkAmidst the strategic simulation game mania dominated by Maxis at the time, Bullfrog made its own bid of sorts with the rather whimsical Theme Park where you play a theme park owner who is determined to create the penultimate amusement park chain in the world. You start out with several thousand dollars and a tract of land in the UK and slowly you build a worldwide theme park empire. The game was fun for a variety of reasons although it took me ages to master despite its rather comedic appearance. Games like this helped set the lighter tone Bullfrog took in terms of sim games.

Dungeon KeeperOne of my favorite Bullfrog games of all time remains to be the Dungeon Keeper series. Amidst the popularity of games like Diablo, Bullfrog turned the tables and instead of putting you in the role of the adventuring hero, they placed you as the dark demonic presence that runs the dungeons the heroes invade. The game was amazingly fun and well beyond just being a sim game given the diverse elements in the game. You had to manage resources, attract minions and defend against noble heroes and opposing Keepers.

Theme HospitalLast notable game apart from the various sequels and such was Theme Hospital that taught me that while I didn't want to be a doctor, I was capable of becoming a hospital administrator, haha. The game is simialr to Dungeon Keeper but instead of the dark and dank stone walls of an underground dungeon, you are in charge of a nice and clean hospital. You manage the continued development of your facility while trying to research new cures and diagnostic tools, battle epidemics and meet your bottom line.

So you see, Bullfrog brought a large number of really good games to life and it's a shame that they're no longer an actual entity and just largely absorbed by their publisher, EA Games.

Now if you excuse me, I'm going to go back to Theme Hospital now.

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