Computer Game #4: Full Metal Planet (1990)
Thanks to a confluence of unfortunate events and an epic clash of personalities, Full Metal Planet has become the holy grail for many game collectors, myself included. Originally released in 1988 as an elaborate boardgame, “Full Métal Planète,” as it is known in France, quickly went out of print. Due to the cost of producing quality metal playing pieces (among other things), it also drove its publisher out of business — but not before they cut a deal with a software company to do a version of the game for the Atari, PC, and Mac. Shortly thereafter, a major falling out among the three people who created the original — and whom shared equally in the rights — ensured that the game would never be released again.
Normally this would spell the end of a title, but FMP is such a great game it developed a fervent cult following that is still, 25 years later, trying to bring it back. The original European boardgame now goes for hundreds of dollars — if you can find a copy for sale — and the computer game is a popular download on abandonware sites.
I only played it once on the computer with friends, but it was such an absolute blast I spent years tracking down a copy for the Mac. The game is a perfect balance of strategy and tactics, careful planning and gambling. Turns are under a strict 3-minute timer, ensuring decisions are made quickly and under pressure. Four players are dropped on a mineral rich planet and have a limited amount of time to grab as much metal as they can, either collecting it themselves or stealing it from the others. Sudden shifts in tides can complicate the best laid plans. Playing it safe won’t win it for you, but neither will being too aggressive. Like I said, a perfect balance.