Sunday, 17 July 2016

Game 72: EcoQuest: The Search for Cetus - Introduction (1991)

Written by Reiko



EcoQuest will be my first "normal" adventure game for the blog. Castle of Dr. Brain was a puzzle game primarily, and Timequest was a text adventure with a few graphics. But not only is EcoQuest intended to be an easy game, since there's no way to die or cause an unwinnable state, but it's also a game with an agenda: environmentalism. So maybe it's not such a normal game after all.


Published by Sierra, it was the last of their "quest" series (preceded by King's Quest, Space Quest, Police Quest, and Quest for Glory, which all began in the 1980s). There were two different releases of the game, an original floppy version and then a year later a CD-ROM version with speech. As we're in 1991 and generally examining the original versions of games, I'm going to be playing the original version. The controls are standard Sierra point-and-click, with the addition of a Recycle button to collect trash.


Collecting the recycling bag enables the Recycle option.

The player controls Adam Greene (even his name is meaningful) as he helps his dad with various sea animals that have been harmed by the careless use of chemicals or equipment. But the quest really begins when a dolphin starts talking to him, asking him to help save the deep-sea community of Eluria. While talking animals are hardly realistic, this is one of the more serious adventure games in tone due to the real environmental issues illustrated by the plot.


From SierraGamers.

Sierra wasn't just being preachy, though. Right on the box, they announced that a part of the profits would be going to the Marine Mammal Center. Plus the game originally shipped with a small book intended to give kids more ideas for how to be environmentally friendly. This was published in the same era when other forms of environmentalism were becoming popular. "Reuse, Reduce, Recycle" and other slogans were being taught to schoolchildren, and recycling programs were in their infancy. Nowadays recycling metal and plastics is standard practice in many areas. So as part of the analysis of the game, we'll have to see how much the environmentalistic messages are still applicable.

There's even an "Econews" pamphlet instead of a normal manual, containing a number of fun tidbits, including letters between Adam and some of his friends, a crossword puzzle, sea-themed jokes, and more. This must have been a fun game to design and produce.

Ken Williams is credited as Executive Producer, and the main design was by Jane Jensen and Gano Haine. The latter didn't do much beyond the second EcoQuest game, Pepper's Adventure in Time and some Dora the Explorer games later on, but Jane Jensen went on after EcoQuest to do design work for a number of other familiar games, including King's Quest VI and several Gabriel Knight games.


Aww, isn’t this cute??

The animation is beautifully done and the dolphin's quest sounds intriguing. I'm looking forward to diving into this one with you all. It looks like a good balance between cute and serious.

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There's a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's an opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that I won't be able to solve a puzzle without putting in an official Request for Assistance: remember to use ROT13 for betting. If you get it right, you will be rewarded with 50 CAPs in return. It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw.

20 comments:

  1. I don't know much about this game, but I'm going to go with 55. I suspect it will score well as a Sierra game of this era, but being more "kiddish" will keep it from approaching the top 10.

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  2. I thought I knew all the Sierra adventures, but I don't think I've even heard of this one. Seems like it could dip in to edutainment territory.

    I'll guess 59. That way we have an extended straight flush going.

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  3. Between the similar title and the box cover I saw as a kid having a (bizarrely proportioned in some cases) dolphin, I've always confused this game with Ecco the Dolphin for Sega. As that game was highly lauded, I'll go with a 60. Nonsense reasoning always wins.

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  4. This was my first adventure game and probably the first video game I purchased with my own money, which at eight years old may have represented my entire financial portfolio.

    Ecoquest was a great introduction for younger kids to the adventure genre, though parts of it seem designed to only try your patience. The ecological message was successfully drilled into my head and I refused to build Industrial zones in Simcity as a result, crippling my cities.

    I recall moving from Ecoquest to King's Quest V, which was a harsh and unsuccessful transition. I somehow never learned of Ecoquest's sequel until only a few years ago. Haven't played it yet though.

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  5. I think everyone's going too high for an edutainment kids product, so I'm going to get pessimistic and say 45!

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  6. They call the dolphin Delphineus? Not the most creative name. Besides, to me Delphineus will always be a flying armada ship that blasts giants with a moonstone cannon. And since I've never played it the dice says 33.

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    1. Yes! Although that was Delphinus. Skies of Arcadia was a great game.

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    2. I knew something was a bit off. But you are right, a really great game.

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  7. I am very familiar with this game, having just read through a highly satirical Let's Play only a couple months ago. You all are in for a real treat...

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    1. I will probably not match the satire quotient...

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    2. I don't think you need to go for the satire. I know my kid enjoyed the game quite a bit when I introduced him to it, once he got past the graphics. Eco Quest is an honest, clean adventure aimed squarely at youngsters and with a lot of conservationist concepts thrown in. It's too easy a target if you approach it with a cynical mindset.

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  8. I remember playing through this at my cousin's house. It may have even been one of the first Sierra games I'd encountered. I have mostly dim memories, but I do recall they were largely positive; along with a memory that some parts of the game get downright creepy. I never knew there was a sequel. Looking forward to this. I'll guess 61.



    Oh, there is one other thing I remember: a puzzle (maybe optional?) that gave me fits. As I remember it to this day, I'll bet 10 CAPs it doesn't get solved without assistance:



    V org gung Ervxb jba'g svther bhg, jvgubhg nffvfgnapr, ubj gb genfu gur cynfgvp fvk-cnpx evatf. (Abg ubj gb serr n svfu sebz gur fvk-cnpx evatf, juvpu vf fgenvtugsbejneq. V'z orggvat Ervxb jba'g svther bhg ubj gb npghnyyl GENFU gubfr evatf nsgre gur svfu unf orra serrq.)

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  9. I remember this being unusually good, for what is an educational kids game. But I doubt it will be bothering the top end of the leaderboard. I'll guess 58.

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