Playstation

Beneath (Presto Studios) [PlayStation, PC – Cancelled]

Beneath is a cancelled action adventure that was in development by Presto Studios in mid / late ‘90s, to be published by Activision for the original Playstation and PC. The game was quite hyped at the time: it was presented as a “Tomb Raider” killer, with such lines as “Deeper than any Tomb” and “More dangerous than any woman“. As we can read on The Journeyman Project website:

“Follow the exploits of Jack Wells as he searches for his missing father, a renowned archaeologist, down a mysterious network of tunnels deep into the earth. The game features a cutting-edge 3D engine with support for hardware acceleration and levels full of amazing uncharted civilizations to explore, climb and swing your way through.”

Presto Studios wanted to add more than Tomb Raider in their inspirations, and such names as H.G. Wells or Jules Verne were dropped in old press releases, such as in this one by CNN:

“Is the world ready for a revisionist H.G. Wells or Jules Verne adventure game? Presto Studios and Activision think so. In Beneath, Presto (of Journeyman Project fame) is convinced that Tomb Raider opened a door for third-person adventures, but the earlier game relied upon its good looks and lacked easy input control and depth of storytelling.

So Presto set off to build a game around Jack, a turn-of-the-century (19th/20th) adventurer out to track down his missing father whose expedition to the pole has gone terribly wrong. In the best Wells/Verne tradition, Jack discovers an underground world with an entirely unique social and eco-system. Three societies inhabit the underground – a Troglodyte world, a Morlock world, and an Insectoid world. Strangely, all three are biologically and socially connected, the questions to be uncovered are how are they connected and what are they up do?

Whether beefcake Jack will draw women to beneath the same way Tomb Raider’s Lara captivated men is unknown, but Presto definitely has a grand vision for an adventure game in Beneath. Unfortunately, despite obvious enthusiasm behind their product, the first couple of times Beneath was brought in for demonstration to PC Games, there wasn’t a whole lot in evidence to get excited about. These early alphas were all software rendered, there weren’t any adversaries or creatures and nothing to explore but dingy mineshafts. What’s more, the producers seem somewhat disdainful of the need for 3D acceleration in third-person games.

This week Activision trotted Beneath through the office again and we’re happy to report there’s a lot more there to talk about. First, Glide support was finally added a couple of weeks ago. Direct3D will come later, as well high-resolution versions of Jack, but the difference 3D acceleration brings to the game is enormous. Activision won’t release updated screens, so we were forced to run the accompanying E3 SVGA screens, but we’re happy to report that Presto’s texture work is often stunning in 3D.

[…] Now for the targets. Presto still hasn’t put many adversaries into the game, but at least we got to play with some early giant spiders and earwigs. They’re still pretty stupid, and we’d still like to see how the Morlocks and Insectoids are coming along, but this is still progress.”

Thanks to some previews published in gaming magazines at the time we know that Beneath would have been set in 12 different levels spread over 3 lost civilizations. The more players would descent deeper beneath the earth’s surface, the more technologically advanced the lost civilization would became.

In the end Presto Studios were not able to keep up with creating their ambitious 3D adventure, being more used to developing pre-rendered point and click adventures, such as their The Journeyman Project series and Myst III: Exile. A full 3D action adventure game was not an easy task to create and competition was high, with many Tomb Raider clones releasing on Playstation.

Beneath was cancelled and in 2002 the studio was closed down, after the release of their Xbox title Whacked.

Thanks to Mark and Ross Sillifant for the contribution!

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Strike Jaguar (Gaps) [Playstation – Cancelled]

Strike Jaguar is a cancelled shoot ‘em up that was in development in late ‘90s, planned to be released by Gaps for the original Playstation. The game featured some original mechanics for a vertical shmup, with a multi-route system that would create a new series of levels each time you play (including rare hidden areas) and combination attacks when playing in coop with a friend.

Screenshots and details about Strike Jaguar were published at the time on Gaps’ old website, but the game was canned when it was about 10% complete. It seems a former Gaps developer reused some of the Strike Jaguar sprites to create another shmup for PC and released it for free on their website.

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Hot Wheels Driver (Midway) [Playstation – Cancelled]

Hot Wheels Driver is a cancelled Micro Machines – style racing game that was in development by Midway Games around 1994, planned to be released on the original Playstation. Players would have been able to race their little Hot Wheels toy-cars in different rooms of the house, using power-ups to win against the AI and friends. As far as we know this game was never officially announced by Midway, but some images were published online many years ago by a former developer on his old website (now closed).

In 2001 THQ released a Hot Wheels game for PS1, but it was a different project than this one.

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Arms Race (Gremlin) [PlayStation, Saturn, PC – Cancelled]

Arms Race is a cancelled action shooter that was in development by Gremlin Interactive around 1997, planned to be released on Playstation, Sega Saturn and PC. Players would ride a futuristic tank, exploring 12 levels while shooting down waves of enemies. It seems the project was led by Steve Zalud and developed using the Re-Loaded 3D engine.

The story would be set in the distant future, when the Cold War will once again be in full swing between six mega-corporations seeking to take over the world. On behalf of one of these agencies you would set off into enemy territory in order to steal weapons and trade secrets.

Screenshots were published in a few European gaming magazines such as Joystick France (issue 82), Play (issue 16), Mean Machines Sega (issue 52) and Generation 4 (issue 99)

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Mythos (DigiFX Interactive) [Cancelled – Playstation, Saturn, PC]

Mythos is a cancelled first person shooter set in ancient Greece that was in development by DigiFX Interactive around 1996 / 1997, planned to be released on PlayStation, Sega Saturn and PC. Players would take the role of an ancient Greek demigod who had to rescue the land from the clutches of Hecate, the evil goddess of the underworld.

As we can read in their original press-release:

  • 15 unique magical weapons to acquire by exploration and combat. Lightning bolts, Magical spears, Fireballs, and transformation spells all at your command!
  • Fully texture mapped 3D rendered world. Randomly changing environments of land, air and sea!
  • 12 unique levels in which to walk or fly around in real time. Each with an awesome boss monster with which to do battle!
  • Mission types include: Search and rescue, total demolition, escort and defend villages.
  • Unique DAY AND NIGHT missions add a totally new unique gaming environment! Real world time simulations start in the day and progress into night!

Unfortunately DigiFX Interactive closed down in late 1997 due to financial issues. When the team was disbanded they were also working on other canned titles such as Mission to Nexus Prime and Kaiju.

Thanks to Celine for the contribution!