Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Game 109: Batman Returns (1992) - Introduction

Written by Joe Pranevich

I grew up loving comic books. My parents wouldn’t let me buy them, but I still had a tiny little suitcase of issues that I had managed to snag at flea markets with my own money. Looking back on it now, it’s adorable just how much I loved the idea of comics even as I barely owned any and didn’t even understand the difference between Marvel and DC. My big break came in high school when I bought boxes and boxes of them off of one of my mother’s boyfriends, no doubt getting a huge discount as he both tried to look mature enough to date my mother while also trying to be nice to me. Contained within the boxes-- most of which still sit in my basement twenty-five years later-- were a treasure trove of 70s and 80s heroes, especially Doctor Strange and a nearly-complete run of the original Defenders. Even more important than the books were the times that he and I spent together; I grilled him for hours about the histories of major characters and he was always kind enough to humor me. He even took me to my first comic book store. I kept in touch with him long after he and my mother split up. He was an adult geek, the first I had ever known, and that was amazing.

One of the characters that he helped me to love was Batman. I remember how shocked I was to learn that the Robin I knew from TV reruns wasn’t even Robin anymore and that there had been two more since then. In large part because of his collection, I was more a Marvel kid than a DC one, but Batman and his rotating team of whiz-kids was someone I could get into. Bruce Timm and his series sealed the deal and I’ve been a Bat-fan ever sense. Twenty-five years later, I am excited to look at Subway Software & Spirit of Discovery’s Batman Returns (1992), the first ever adventure game featuring the Dark Knight. As this is also the 80th anniversary of the character, I can’t imagine a more fitting time to delve into the history of Batman and Batman-related games, before plunging into our topic at hand. It’s a huge story, but I’ll be brief.

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Nippon Safes Inc. - Back with a Wrench-ance

By Torch

Doug Nuts here again. Being a genius, I usually like to get by in the world using my brains. This time, however, my legs have done most of the job

Last time I left off trying to figure out how to win the grand opening competition at the restaurant Kaizen-Sushi… the Kai..?

Doug Nuts and the lost art of consistent spelling

Friday, 14 June 2019

Missed Classic: Reality Ends – WON! and Final Rating

by Will Moczarski

Prologue: Second Session

My second session of Reality Ends was remarkably uneventful. I tried some new things with all of my items but putting in an hour got me nowhere. Another obstacle was the savegame feature. My TRS-80 emulator sometimes did not recognize my file names (or rather tape names) but didn’t tell me about it until I tried to restore my saved states. I decided to rough it in order to get the original feeling but that was really time-consuming as every wrong move (and there are many of them) led me back to the beginning. In the end, I didn’t even need my notes to get the food, feed the dog, get the umbrella, get the diamonds after using the umbrella, get the horse, jump across the ravine, get the mail, get the rope, throw the rope, climb the rope, get the plants, pay for the polish with the plants, buy guns and finally pay for them with the diamonds. In the end, I only achieved a couple new things: I was able to pick up the gold and recruit the marksmen in the town of Rayor. When I tried to attack the town of Margon now, I was still crushed. The VOCAB command soon became my best friend. I spent a lot of time dabbling with the “place” command (especially “place marksmen” which seemed like a martial thing to do) before figuring out that it’s just a synonym for “drop”. Dropping the marksmen caused them to disappear into thin air, however, although I was able to recruit them indefinitely as long as I had the gold. Using items, even for payment, doesn’t make you drop them or lose them which seems a bit counterintuitive – it makes things a lot easier, though. Oh, and I rolled the log, revealing a metal box. Its top is welded shut, though, so that just turned into another puzzle.

Without a clue what to do next I checked out my trusty 1981 Med Systems catalog once again. The description of Reality Ends came with three sort-of clues and one major disappointment: Apparently, it was marketed as a game for beginners. Also, the “clues” were not clues per se but rather bits and pieces hinting at the plot. They only confirmed my suspicions that I had to attack the city of Margon to free the Amulet of Sangi and recruit the fanatic hordes “to aid my quest”.

I hate “easy” games. They are likely to make me feel stupid.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Missed Classic: Borrowed Time - Won! And Final Rating

Written by Joe Pranevich

It seems like only two days ago that we started our look at Borrowed Time, the first game by Subway Software and a fun diversion as I prepare for Batman Returns. This is the first adventure game created by “The Game Doctor”, William Kunkel, during a brief period where he transitioned from game journalist to game designer. We left off last week after an extended chase sequence as my character, the hardboiled detective Sam Hawlow, survived an attempt on his life.

The plot thickens right away. As soon as I step out of the bar where I had fled, my assistant Iris finds me. Someone has kidnapped my ex-wife Rita; Iris recommends that I search Rita’s apartment for clues. I learned a few minutes earlier that Rita was on good terms with one of the thugs, Fred Mongo, so I do not understand why she was kidnapped. Was she double-crossed? Is this a setup intended to lure me to my death? Was she so upset about the unpaid alimony that she would seek out the mob, only to end up in over her head? I’ll have to play some more to find out. Although my character should know where her apartment is located, I will need to explore the city to find it. Let’s see what we see!

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Missed Classic 69: Borrowed Time (1985) - Introduction

Written by Joe Pranevich

If you are like me, sometimes research takes you places that you don’t expect. When I started into Batman Returns, I expected to find that it was a half-assed game produced by a no-name little software outlet who won the minimum bid to make the ninth licensed game based on the 1992 movie. And, it might still be that. I haven’t even looked at the game yet as I wait for a copy of the manual to arrive by mail. (I’ll be donating it to the Internet Archive once I wrap up my review.) Instead, I discovered the story of Subway Software and one of it founders, Bill Kunkel.

Rather than jump straight into Batman, I’d like to tell Mr. Kunkel’s story through a different game: an illustrated text adventure called Borrowed Time, Subway Software’s first release. As so many of these games were, it was a multi-party affair: developed by Interplay using their adventure game engine, based on a story and design by Kunkel’s company, and published by Activision. This was still around four months before Activision bought Infocom so it is not quite a cousin to the games that we have looked at in the Zork marathon, but it is a sign that they were interested in the interactive fiction genre. Borrowed Time has kidnapping, murder, and at least one HIPAA violation. It was also pretty fun to play to whet my appetite for Batman. Let’s get to it.