Wednesday 30 May 2012

The Year Ahead - 1989

It's that time again! There are only three games left (after the current one) on the playlist for 1988, meaning it's time to take a look at the year ahead...1989 (obvious I know)! There are only three Potential games from 1989 that I've played before, so I'm pumped for it, particularly as there are a couple I really should have played (Indiana Jones and The Colonel's Bequest).

Nine of the eleven games listed are automatic additions to The Adventure Gamer playlist, leaving only two that rest in the reader's hands. Chamber of the Sci-Mutant Priestess came in as Borderline, meaning one reader can spend 50 points (or a bunch of you can pool together 100 points) to add it to the list, and Emmanuelle has been disregarded, so a bunch of you would need to pool together 200 points if you want me to play it.

If you're feeling a bit disgruntled at the fact there are only two games up for discussion for 1989, well rest assured that 1990 will have much to spend your well earned CAPs on. There are currently six Borderline (including the King's Quest remake and Future Wars) and four Disregarded games for that year, so keep that in mind before you splurge out for the fun of it. Over to you!

Chamber of the Sci-Mutant Priestess (aka KULT: The Temple of Flying Saucers)
Is it clearly a graphic adventure game?Yes
Does it have 20 or more Moby Games ratings?No (12)
Is it on the Wikipedia Notable Games list?Yes

It sure looks strange! It's up to you guys whether I play it or not.

Code-Name: Iceman
Is it clearly a graphic adventure game?Yes
Does it have 20 or more Moby Games ratings?Yes (36)
Is it on the Wikipedia Notable Games list?Yes
ResultPlay It

Seems to be an interesting mix of adventure and simulator, but predominately adventure.

Emmanuelle: A Game of Eroticism
Is it clearly a graphic adventure game?Yes
Does it have 20 or more Moby Games ratings?No (16)
Is it on the Wikipedia Notable Games list?No

You won't make me play this will you? Will you!?

Hero's Quest: So You Want to be a Hero
Is it clearly a graphic adventure game?Yes
Does it have 20 or more Moby Games ratings?Yes (97)
Is it on the Wikipedia Notable Games list?Yes
ResultPlay It

My favourite adventure memory. Will it stand up?

Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure
Is it clearly a graphic adventure game?Yes
Does it have 20 or more Moby Games ratings?Yes (114)
Is it on the Wikipedia Notable Games list?Yes
ResultPlay It

I've played The Fate of Atlantis but not The Last Crusade!

Leisure Suit Larry III: Passionate Patti in Pursuit of the Pulsating Pectorals
Is it clearly a graphic adventure game?Yes
Does it have 20 or more Moby Games ratings?Yes (54)
Is it on the Wikipedia Notable Games list?Yes
ResultPlay It

I remember playing this as a kid (how could I forget!), but didn't get far

Manhunter 2: San Francisco
Is it clearly a graphic adventure game?Yes
Does it have 20 or more Moby Games ratings?Yes (27)
Is it on the Wikipedia Notable Games list?Yes
ResultPlay It

I'll be playing the first one real soon!

Mean Streets
Is it clearly a graphic adventure game?Yes
Does it have 20 or more Moby Games ratings?Yes (36)
Is it on the Wikipedia Notable Games list?Yes
ResultPlay It

This will be my first Tex Murphy experience

Is it clearly a graphic adventure game?Yes
Does it have 20 or more Moby Games ratings?Yes (44)
Is it on the Wikipedia Notable Games list?Yes
ResultPlay It

This game looks really interesting. I'm intrigued!

Space Quest III: The Pirates of Pestulon
Is it clearly a graphic adventure game?Yes
Does it have 20 or more Moby Games ratings?Yes (81)
Is it on the Wikipedia Notable Games list?Yes
ResultPlay It

I played this just a few years back, so should cruise through it

The Colonel's Bequest
Is it clearly a graphic adventure game?Yes
Does it have 20 or more Moby Games ratings?Yes (48)
Is it on the Wikipedia Notable Games list?Yes
ResultPlay It

This will be my first Laura Bow experience

Tuesday 29 May 2012

Game 19: Leisure Suit Larry 2 - A Day of Nonookee

Larry Laffer Journal Entry 1: “What a day of conflicting fortunes! Things started horrendously when Eve decided she didn’t want to know me anymore, despite the almost inhuman seductive powers that I produced to win her over in Lost Wages. I guess she was too good to be true! I did steal a dollar from her garage though as revenge. Lucky I did, because that one single dollar would lead to a huge shift in fortune! I used it to buy a lottery ticket, and while I didn’t actually win, I somehow managed to convince the receptionist at KROD Studios that I did. She sent me out the back to go on live TV, but while I was waiting, I was confused as a contestant for Dating Connection. My luck still hadn’t run out though, as I not only won the show, and received tickets to spend a few weeks on a cruise ship with the beautiful Barbara, I was then dragged onto Lucky Life where I won a million dollars every year for the rest of my life! My thoughts that this must all be a dream have now been reinforced, as I now find myself involved in a bizarre plot involving an item called an onklunk (which I have in my possession), and a man called Dr. Nonookee. Oh well...I guess I’ll just see what happens before I wake up. I am going to wake up...aren’t I?”

I guess Eve never finished the first game

What a ridiculous plot! Never before have I played a game that begins with so many implausible events and matters of chance, all for the purpose of setting up what appears to be a completely nonsensical storyline. Do I care? Not one bit! Leisure Suit Larry 2 is all about having fun and Al Lowe really does know how to get a consistent flow of chuckles out of the player. He appears to have pulled out all the stops for the sequel, with more outrageous characters, gratuitous language and sexual innuendos. it a better or more enjoyable game than the first one? The jury is well and truly still out on that, particularly as I feel like I’ve been more of a spectator to the majority of what has occurred so far, rather than a participant.

Dr. Nonookee - Surrounding yourself with attractive women and porn isn't conducive to celibacy

The game starts with Eve telling me to get away from her house and never come back. Before I left, I snooped around in the garage to see if there was anything useful in there. All I could come up with was a dollar bill left in an old pair of pants, so I took it. I then spent the next forty-five minutes wandering around Los Angeles, mapping each screen as I went. The grid is limited to sixteen locations, which isn’t surprising given I know at least part of the game takes place on a remote island. Unusually, during my initial trip to each of the locations, I couldn’t find anything to pick up or anything to do, apart from one thing. I spent that one dollar I stole from Eve to buy a lottery ticket at the Quikie Mart.

Larry failed probability at school, which is also why he flirts with every cute girl

Um...Zenic...the clerk at the Quikie Mart says hello

Apart from the Quikie Mart, the only other locations of note were the KROD TV studio, the Musicology Shoppe (which hadn’t yet opened), a stupendously expensive clothes store called Molto Lira, a drug store, a pub called The Scurvy Dog (which isn’t open during the day) and a barber called Hairy Reams. Without having any cash, the majority of these places were completely useless to me, so I figured somehow the lottery ticket would be the key to my progression. Purely by chance, the first thing I tried to do was show the ticket to the receptionist at the TV studio. I have to admit, I was really showing it to her just to see what would happen, but it turned out to be exactly what I needed to do. She told me what the winning lottery numbers were and then asked me what I had on my ticket. Simply repeating the numbers she said was enough to fool her into sending me through to Lucky Life to see what I’d won.

Blatant mocking of homosexuals was fair game in the eighties!

While waiting to go on stage, I was mistaken for a contestant on a dating show called Dating Connection. It’s here that a bimbo named Barbara asked air-headed questions to me and two other contestants. It was pretty funny stuff, with the other contestants answering every question by describing their own physical and sexual prowess. It quickly becomes apparent that it makes absolutely no difference what Larry says, especially as the game won’t allow you to type an answer of more than a few words. In the end, Barbara is clearly responsive to the overtly sexual answers of contestant three, but accidentally presses button number two. So not only have I fudged my way onto the show in the first place, I’ve now won a cruise of the South Pacific with Barbara by pure chance.

That's strange, I always found the announcement of war to be quite the aphrodisiac

After exiting the stage, I was confronted by a woman who’d been desperately trying to find me for Lucky Life Lottery. Given I was so late to the stage, they didn’t bother to check my ticket and sent me straight to the spinning wheel to see what my prize would be. Of course it turned out to be the jackpot, a million dollars a year for the rest of my life! It’s worth pointing out at this point that I did pretty much nothing during all of this. I didn’t even have control of Larry, and apart from typing my answers to Barbara’s questions (which were irrelevant), had gone from owning nothing and having a total of 7 points out of 500 to owning a million dollar note and a ticket for a South Pacific cruise, and having a total of 63 points, without doing anything.

The eternal underdog just became a genuine contender

Now that I had money, I figured I’d be able to go purchase a few things that were previously unavailable to me. The first thing I attempted was to buy a soda at the Quikie Mart, but that didn’t end well. The woman behind the counter told me should couldn’t break a million, so without any way to put the soda back, I walked out to see what would happen. She hilariously jumped on the counter and shot me, spouting foul language like the chick in Pulp Fiction. OK, so how could I possibly get change for a million dollar note!? The answer was obvious...Molto Lira! I spent a little bit of time trying to chat up the cute Italian shop assistant, but when she wasn’t impressed by my lottery win (she asked how many shipping lines I owned), I bought a swimsuit for $108500 and left.

What type of guy could possibly get a gorgeous girl like this!!!???


The next place I decided to throw my cash around was the Hairy Reams barber shop. This was actually a very funny little section of the game, but I’m yet to understand what affect it has if any. The barber spouts the sort of half natural, half scientific tosh that so many pseudo-scientific solutions do these days, and I laughed out loud to lines such as “I assure you, I use only the trendiest products, all organically grown and available only in undersized, overpriced, biodegradable bottles!” Even funnier were the daydreams Larry had while the barber worked on him, firstly of a more handsome self, but soon enough degenerating into running along the beach with a big breasted brunette followed by Brutus the reappearing dog weeing on Larry’s leg. The fact that the barber can see Larry’s dream bubbles and exclaims how strange they are just makes it even better. Anyway, since the game makes it clear that I look exactly the same after my macrobiotic styling as I did prior to it I have no idea yet what relevance this whole scene has.

Daydreaming - Larry Laffer style

Thanks Chumazik for letting me know about the Trite Phrase setting. It has proved quite useful!

Next up I went back to the Quikie Mart to get that soda. I love the way the game takes the piss out of itself when describing how Larry adds the massively oversized soda to his inventory. “Ah, what the hell. This isn’t real life...but merely an incredible simulation! You decide to put it in your pocket along with everything else.” By this point I was running out of places to go, but since I’d done nothing at the drug store, that was my next destination. I tried everything I could think of here, but haven’t found anything I can purchase or give to the “not too bright” surfer dude behind the counter. I’m hoping something comes up later that will make its purpose obvious. Thankfully it wasn’t long after this that I noticed the Music Shop was finally open!

I tried to explain to her how selfless you are Ilmari but she wouldn't have it

The purpose of this drug store has so far avoided me

Just like in King’s Quest IV, characters only appear and places only open after certain events have been triggered. I’m not sure exactly what it was I did to cause the Music Shop to open, but I wasted no time in entering once it did. This is where things got even more outrageous! Larry attempts to speak Spanish to the Latin American girl behind the counter and of course does a terrible job at it. “Your ears remind me of whale breasts.” “My pencil is long, hard and yellow.” Coincidentally, that second effort just so happens to be the secret passphrase for the girl to give Larry an item called an onklunk. Alright, I’ve already embraced the fact that Leisure Suit Larry 2 makes no attempt to tell a story based around the laws of possibility, but isn’t Mr Lowe pushing it a bit far with that one? More notably though, it’s yet another scene that takes place without any input from me, the player!

One of the finest pick up lines I've come across!

The cute Latin American girl hopes you stick around Jarakith!

After leaving the music shop with my newfound onklunk, which apparently contains a microfiche, which in turn holds the secrets to the recent United States superconductor research wanted by Dr. Nonookee (the guy we saw on the island in the intro), I then watch a dead ringer for Larry enter the music shop and try to retrieve the item. It’s also at this point that a KGB man started following me, so I decided to stop playing before any further complexities arise to make writing this first post more challenging than it already was. So what do I think so far? Well, I’m having a lot of fun playing Larry 2. I’m just concerned at the lack of player input so far, and hope that things settle down once the preposterous plot is irreversibly set in motion. I’m also wondering whether I’ve already missed something that will cause one of these dead ends you guys keep warning me about. I don’t plan to get on that cruise ship (when it arrives) until I’m quite sure I’ve done all I can.

That sounds truly terrible! Whatever will I do!?

Session Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: I've recently written 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 points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is the first gameplay post for this game, the opportunity to bet on puzzles that I will need assistance with or to make PISSED rating predictions has passed. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. Thanks!

Monday 28 May 2012

What's Your Story? - The Trickster

It's only fair that if I start a new feature on The Adventure Gamer asking readers to tell everyone a little bit about themselves, that I go first. Quite a few of you have already sent me your answers, all of whom will very shortly receive 20 Companion Assist Points (CAPs). While I'll be giving points out at the time I receive the emails, I plan to make the What's Your Story posts a weekly thing for as long as I have responses. I've already got over two months of posts covered, so who knows, if the site continues to grow in popularity, it might continue weekly indefinitely. Just in case there was any confusion, if any of the readers that have already sent me their answers do not wish for me to post them on the site, please let me know.

The Trickster

My home country is… Australia. Sydney to be precise.

My age is… 35, as of Saturday. That means I was around eleven when the current games I’m playing came out.

The first adventure game I played was… King’s Quest 1. I’m not actually certain of this, because I was very young when I played my first Sierra games. It could just as well have been Leisure Suit Larry or Police Quest, but I didn’t get very far in any of them. The first adventure game I finished was Hero’s Quest (aka Quest for Glory 1).

The first adventure game I finished and still my favourite

My favourite adventure game is… Hero’s Quest 1. It might be nostalgia, but I loved that game. We’ll soon see whether it holds up. The Secret of Monkey Island and The Longest Journey would be up there too.

When I’m not playing games I like to… write about them. :) I also love spending time with my wife and daughter, metal music, various sports, movies and educating myself in the sciences (I'm currently learning about string theory). If I retired today, I could fill every day with things to do and learn, for as long as I live.

Yes...I love this shit, and a whole lot more of it!

I like my games in (a box, digital format)… if you asked me a couple of years back, I would have said in the box with a big manual to go with it, but nowadays I’m realising the freedom of having pretty much everything I own in digital format. I now listen to audiobooks, read comics online and have my entire music collection in MP3 format. I buy all my games from GOG and Steam.

The thing I miss about old games is… the freedom developers had to innovate. I recall a time when hundreds and hundreds of games would come out every year, and many of them would be innovative and unique. Even in the late nineties, there were games such as Homeworld, Deus Ex, Planescape: Torment and Thief pushing the boundaries in both style and content. These days there are only a handful of games of any note released due to the cost, and it’s just too risky for the developers to try something new. The end result is endless clones and sequels with little true innovation. Thankfully the indie developers seem to be making a big push right now!

Homeworld grabbed me despite having very little interest in strategy games.

The best thing about modern games is… the sheer beauty. I can wander through Morrowind or Oblivion for hours and just look at it! I look forward to the day when developers take the innovation of the eighties and nineties, and combine it with the production value and technology of today.

The one TV show I never miss is…Game of Thrones. It’s been a long time since I was truly excited about a TV show, but I long for each episode to come out. The Walking Dead and Mad Men aren’t far behind.

Game of Thrones has more than lived up to my lofty expectations.

If I could see any band live it would be… hmmm…there are hundreds of bands I’d like to see. In fact, I’ll be seeing a few of them in France next month at Hellfest. I’ve never seen My Dying Bride live, which is something I’d like to remedy.

My favourite movie is… another tough question as I love so many. I’d have to say The Lord of the Rings trilogy if I had to name one, but The Exorcist, Donnie Darko, Aliens and Se7en would all be up there.

I can't even begin to tell you why I love this movie.

One interesting thing about me is… I’m deaf in one ear. I always have been, so it doesn’t bother me at all. It does make some social settings awkward though when people think I’m ignoring them when I just can’t hear them.

Interested in sending your answers and getting 20 points for you trouble? Email

Saturday 26 May 2012

Game 19: Leisure Suit Larry 2 - Introduction

It goes without saying really doesn't it?

After just recently completing Sierra’s first game to utilise the SCI engine, King’s Quest IV, I’m immediately setting out to play the second, Leisure Suit Larry Goes Looking for Love (in Several Wrong Places). It’s the sequel to 1987’s Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards, so from now on I’m just going to call the game Leisure Suit Larry 2. When I began this obscene task of playing through every notable graphic adventure game ever made for the PC, I can’t say I had high expectations for the Leisure Suit Larry series. The smutty adult natured themes didn’t seem like they would capture my interest and I figured I was also unlikely to be amused by the teenage boy comedy that the series is known for. Yet here we are after eighteen games have been ticked off the list, and the first Leisure Suit Larry sits very comfortably in second place behind Maniac Mansion. While I never thought I would be, I’m actually pretty excited at the prospect of trying to get Larry Laffer laid again, and to find out what hilarious stupidity Al Lowe (who wrote, programmed, produced, and wrote all music for the game) has lined up for me next.

I imagine surfing would be quite difficult with such an incredibly enormous head

There are however a couple of things that have me concerned prior to setting off on my next journey. Firstly, there’s the numerous comments that have popped up over time that reference Leisure Suit Larry 2 as having numerous dead ends, many of which are reasonably unavoidable. Secondly, while I haven’t started playing yet, I was quite shocked by the game’s intro, which suggests the story of the sequel is far removed from that of the first. I’ll go into more detail in the first gameplay post, but the game appears to have taken a slightly science fiction approach, and the story involves an arch villain orchestrating evil plots from his underground lair. It will be interesting to see whether the game feels connected to the first in tone and style, or whether Al decided to take the character in a totally different direction, perhaps due to criticism of the highly sexual nature of the original.

It's like Space Quest and Leisure Suit Larry combined

As I mentioned earlier, Leisure Suit Larry 2 was developed using the SCI engine, so the graphics and sound should have the same polish shown in King’s Quest IV. I look forward to hearing that catchy theme song without the dodgy PC speaker sound bringing the whole experience down, and can’t help wondering whether the quality of the women have improved at a similar rate to the technology used to produce them. We’ll all know soon enough! I’ve found a copy of the game and downloaded it (unfortunately GOG doesn’t have Leisure Suit Larry on the books yet for some reason), and found myself a PDF manual (from the ever reliable Replacement Docs site). The manual offers very little when it comes to story, apart from covering off what happened in the first game, but it is required to get past the piracy protection system. Strangely, I’ve started the game three or four times (trying to get a decent screen shot of the title page), and have been subjected to the same question each time. Hopefully I can just remember the one phone number, relinquishing my need of the manual altogether. Alright’s time to put the suit back on and grace the ladies with your ever charming presence!

If he's already got the number of all these women, he ain't doing too badly!

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: I've recently written 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 points 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 points (only if they already have them) that I won't be able to solve a puzzle unassisted (see below for an example). It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Multiple readers can predict the same score, but will be rewarded a decreasing amount of points if it turns out to be correct.

Example Bet:
Bet: V org lbh gra cbvagf gung lbh jvyy fgehttyr gb trg cnfg gur gerr pyvzovat ovg naq jvyy arrq nffvfgnapr. Ol gur jnl rirelbar, vg'f zl oveguqnl!

Friday 25 May 2012

Companion Assist Points Explained

[This blog page has been retained here due to historical reasons, but up-to-date rules of The Adventure Gamer can be found on a separate page].

I’ve been talking about setting some clear criteria around The Adventure Gamer for a while now, but with the games on my list for 1988 coming to an end, I finally got motivated to put some thought into it. The suggestions I made in the last Weekly Poll Discussion post led me to believe that the readers are for the most part interested in some of my ideas for making the blog more interactive, so with that in mind, I’ve set about listing ways that readers can earn Companion Assist Points, how they can use those points, and I’ve also spent some time putting together a list of definitions to help anyone that’s unsure or new to the site. I will somehow make all this stuff easily accessible on the site and as usual, would love to hear your feedback. As I’ve said all along, The Adventure Gamer was started first and foremost to celebrate adventure games, but with building a community of likeminded gamers in mind.

It's important to note that you don't need to care about or understand any of what I'm about to say. If you just want to read about my struggles and victories in adventure games, then this can all safely be ignored.


Hint – a suggestion or clue that might assist in solving a puzzle
Spoiler – an outright explanation of how to solve a puzzle
Request for Assistance – where The Trickster asks for assistance in solving a puzzle. These will be clearly marked in future so that there is no confusion
Companion Assist Points – points given to readers for assisting The Trickster or contributing to the blog site in various ways
ROT13 – a cypher encryption system that allows people to leave hints or spoilers that require decryption to read. Encryption and decryption can be done at
Potential Game – a game that is listed on Moby Games as part of the adventure genre (excluding interactive fiction games) and has at least 10 votes, or appears on the Wikipedia Notable Graphic Adventure Games list.
Accepted Game – a game that automatically goes on the playlist because it satisfies three criteria.
1.      It has at least 20 votes on Moby Games

2.      It is listed on the Wikipedia List of Notable Graphic Adventure Games

3.      It is undeniably a graphic adventure game. This is of course entirely subjective.
Borderline Game – a game that satisfies at least two of the above criteria, but not all three.
Disregarded Game – a game that satisfies only one of the above criteria.


There are numerous ways to earn companion assist points and I will no doubt introduce more over time. Below are ways to earn points as of now:
1. Giving clearly marked (and separate) hint and spoiler that directly relate to a Request for Assistance, coded in ROT13.

  • Unicorn Hint: Jung zvtug lbh arrq gb evqr n havpbea?
  • Unicorn Spoiler: Lbh arrq trg n oevqyr gb evqr gur havpbea juvpu vf uvqqra ba n qrfregrq vfynaq. Gb trg gb gur vfynaq, lbh'yy arrq gb trg vafvqr gur junyr.
2. Filling in The Adventure Gamer “What’s Your Story?” questionnaire with the intention of your responses being shared with the community. Points will be attributed at the time of the post, not the time of the questionnaire completion. I will post the What's Your Story? questionnaire in the next day or two.


1. Giving a clearly marked hint / spoiler that is not directly related to a Request for Assistance to assist The Trickster, coded in ROT13. A reader would only do this if it's clear that The Trickster has hit a dead end or missed a required item and therefore needs assistance without knowing it. Please note that I will no longer award any reader that posts hints or spoilers for puzzles in advance, or for which I do not yet require any assistance. You're welcome to discuss spoilers in ROT13 at any time, but please mark them as Spoiler - Do Not Read Trickster.

  • Whale Spoiler: V'z nsenvq lbh'ir qrnq raqrq lbhefrys. Gurer'f ab jnl bhg bs gur junyr nf lbh'er zvffvat na vgrz.
2. Assisting The Trickster with any technical challenges he faces while attempting to play a game.

3. Contributing suggestions and ideas for ways to improve or build on The Adventure Gamer blog site.

4. Correctly predicting the rating that The Trickster will give the game he is about to commence playing. These predictions are to be made on the Introduction post for the game, and must be in place prior to the first gameplay post for that game.

5. A reader can bet 10 of their current Companion Assist points that The Trickster will require assistance to solve a particular puzzle in the game he is about to commence playing. These bets need to be placed on the introduction post for the game, and must be in place prior to the first gameplay post for the game. Once a reader has made a bet regarding a particular puzzle, no other reader can replicate that bet (so one bet per puzzle). Any bets must be made in ROT13.

6. Solving one of The Trickster’s riddles that appear in his posts from time to time. These will not always be clearly marked.

7. Bringing adventure game related Kickstarter projects to the attention of The Trickster (only games requiring $50000 or more will gain the full 10 points).


1. Answering any question asked by The Trickster in a post regarding a part of the game he has already solved or is curious about.

2. Being the first to comment about new adventure games on GOG or Steam, and any adventure game related sales on those sites.


It stands to reason that if Companion Assist Points can be earned, then they might also be lost. The one surefire way to lose points is to post a hint or spoiler regarding a section of the game that The Trickster hasn't yet reached or solved without encrypting it in ROT13 first. I'm going to be very strict on this as quite a few spoilers have started to enter the comments section of posts. If I don't work to minimise them then I will not be able to read any comments before finishing a game and therefore not be able to interact with the readers.

Companion Assist points can be used to add games to the playlist that otherwise would not be there. Note that this will not affect the Companion Assist Points Leaderboard as I will keep a tally of how many points each reader has earned in total as well as how many they still have available to use. This will be displayed in the following format: Fenrus - 40 Points (20), meaning Fenrus has earned 40 points, but he only has 20 remaining to spend on adding games to the list.

For Borderline games, individual readers can spend 50 of their Companion Assist points to get a game added to the playlist.
For Borderline games, readers can pool 100 Companion Assist points to get a game added to the playlist.
For Disregarded games, readers can pool 200 Companion Assist points to get a game added to the list.

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Game 18: King's Quest IV - Final Rating

There's more excitement than usual with this final rating. Not only will we see where King's Quest IV ends up on the leaderboard, we'll also find out who wins the 10 points for predicting the result. My gut feeling says the game will do pretty well, particularly as it has the advantage of being pioneering from a technological point of view.

Puzzles and Solvability
This is a tough category to rate for King’s Quest IV. The game is very difficult for numerous reasons. There are quite a few possible dead ends (entering the whale without the feather or the fish, leaving the ogre’s house without the axe). There are also a few particularly nasty puzzles, with the main culprit being everything to do with the whale. Finding the whale is hard enough! Knowing you’re supposed to and then managing to get inside it is next to impossible unless you’re really lucky (I can honestly say that I don’t think I would have managed it without reader assistance). Once you are inside the whale, the outrageous tongue maze merely adds to the frustration, particularly when you remember it’s quite possible a player could be there without either of the items they need once they do get through the maze. I’m deducting one point for the whale!

Even finding the whistle on the island after exiting the whale was difficult.

Some of the other puzzles in the game come with a high difficulty too, such as fishing off the pier (making you try the same thing numerous times before it is successful is just not cool) and the waterfall puzzle (although I’ll never know how long it would have taken me to solve this one unassisted). Even ignoring the difficulty of the above, the most challenging thing for me was that certain screens could only be solved at certain times. I wasted hours at screens such as the pool and the spooky house, trying everything I could think of when in fact nothing was going to work. Certain other actions needed to take place first, yet the player can’t know that. Despite everything I’ve just said, I really enjoyed the challenge that King’s Quest IV offered, and unlike some of the other games I’ve really criticised for being close to unsolvable (the ICOM games in particular), everything in King’s Quest IV makes total sense. Apart from the whale puzzle, I managed to avoid all the dead ends and solve everything thrown at me eventually, so it was far from unsolvable. I just had to persevere and learn the rules of the game, which are a bit different to the ones that came before it.
Rating: 5

I spent quite a bit of time on certain screens where nothing ever happened!

Interface and Inventory
Despite the new SCI engine being used for the game, the parser doesn’t appear any different to other recent Sierra attempts. In fact, the most suitable comparison would be Gold Rush! Typing “look” tells you pretty much everything you need to know about a location. If an item isn’t mentioned in the basic location description, there’s a high chance that it plays no role in any solution. This isn’t the case in every instance, but the exceptions are normally pretty damn obvious. On the downside, just as with Gold Rush, there are very few interesting or humorous descriptions to be found for items that are not of great importance, with most requests met with the defaults such as “you don’t need it” and “I do not understand the word grass”.

Typing "look" usually gives you enough information to get by

Movement is handled pretty well, but strangely Sierra still hasn’t managed to remove the difficulty their simulated 3D perspective gives to climbing stairs or walking across thin objects. Just as in Gold Rush, there are times where the game takes over control temporarily to move Rosella from point to point (this is totally welcome in my books), but there are other times where the player is forced to manoeuvre up spiral staircases through sections where the protagonist is not even visible. I died numerous times in the game either climbing up or down stairs or trying to cross something (such as the board to reach the fruit tree in the swamp). I could always slow down the speed of the game to make these sections easier, but I long for games where movement is not a concern so I can focus on solving puzzles.

It's hard enough when you can see yourself!

The inventory is expectedly adequate, but it seemed a small step backwards not to be able to request a description of each item I’d collected. Typing “look at pouch” just brought up a picture of the pouch with no description, stopping me from gaining any clues from item investigation. There are also times where you cannot get to your inventory, and they’re normally the times you really need to, such as when a bulldog is running at you. I get the idea that you wouldn’t have time in that instance to go through your items to find something of use, but this is an adventure game, and chances are you need to apply a unique item to each situation as it occurs. So, I’ve covered in detail the slight flaws that have been carried over to, or in some cases created in, Sierra’s new engine, but I should point out that in the overall scheme of things, King’s Quest IV feels extremely polished and professional. I’m merely nit-picking issues of little consequence in a perfectly usable and well established system. I guess I just expected more from SCI.
Rating: 5

I don't really understand why I couldn't see my inventory at certain times.

Story and Setting
The actual plot of King’s Quest IV is not very inspired. Basically it involves Rosella travelling to Tamir to find some magic fruit to save her dying father. To be able to get back home, she also needs to recover the fairy Genesta’s talisman, which is in the hands of the evil fairy Lolotte. To recover the talisman, Rosella gains the trust of Lolotte by fetching three items for her, before stealing the talisman back and saving Genesta, King Graham and all of Tamir. Roberta Williams hasn’t really ventured all that far from the first game’s fetch three magical items that have been stolen by an evil witch to save Daventry plot. However, there are lots of stories that sound stupid when summarised that are actually enjoyable for all the minor details on the way. As usual, Roberta picked snippets from fairy tales and mythologies to create the subquests and characters of Tamir, including the ogre from Jack and the Beanstalk, the prince frog, the seven dwarfs, Cupid, Satyr and even the whale that Jonah entered in the bible. It certainly helps to have some knowledge of the original stories to solve the puzzles that are associated with these characters, but it’s not essential. I probably should give the game a 5 here, but I’m going with a 6 for being the first to have a female main protagonist.
Rating: 6

It's the unpredictable mix of characters that makes an otherwise cliche story interesting

Sound and Graphics
While I’ve mentioned how the SCI engine failed to make any significant improvements from interface and parser points of view, it certainly did in the sound and graphics category. The visuals are substantially better than any game on the list so far, with a higher resolution, more colours and detail, and much more convincing animation. As soon as I saw Rosella swaying her way along the screen with her braids smoothly swinging from side to side, it was obvious that Sierra had once again raised the bar for graphics in the adventure genre. They did even more than that on the sound side, with King’s Quest IV being the very first game to make use of dedicated sound cards. After putting up with either PC speaker driven bleeps or bad quality digital recordings, the comparatively lush compositions are most welcome. The downside is that for the most part, the game is still silent, with effects and melodies utilised only occasionally. In fact, there are 75 different pieces of music that kick in at different times during King’s Quest IV, but none of them stick around long enough or form any sort of theme to be truly memorable. There’s no doubt that King’s Quest broke new ground in both the sound and graphics department, so I’m giving it the very first 6!
Rating: 6

The game looks, sounds and feels classier than any before it on the list

Environment and Atmosphere
Tamir is a reasonably varied place, but it always feels like a King’s Quest land. It follows a similar grid style to previous games, with borders to the east and west and wrapping screens to the north and south. It has all the typical fields, meadows and beaches that we’ve become accustomed to, occupied by cottages, caves and streams. Where the game differs from the first three games is that it offers a creepy element, mostly through the inclusion of the haunted house in the zombie infested cemetery (within which all the action occurs during the night), but also through the groves of evil looking trees and skull shaped witches’ cave. Adding this lightweight horror to the mythological and fantastic elements that are typical for the series makes it more to my taste. I initially thought the environment was too limited in scope, but once I broke through the ocean and mountain wall barriers to screens beyond, it was more than satisfactory.
Rating: 6

I'm sure Rosella didn't expect digging up graves in the middle of night to be on the adventurer job description

Dialogue and Acting
I don’t have much interesting stuff to say for this category. The narration and description are to the point and get the job down. There are very few attempts at humour, but then King’s Quest has never attempted to compete with the likes of Space Quest and Leisure Suit Larry. We’re still at a stage in the evolution of the genre where the protagonist has little to no voice (both literally and figuratively), so I’ll increase the rating I gave to the previous games by 1 for the simple fact that the dialogue is nowhere near as silly this time round.
Rating: 5

The game makes limited attempts to take the language far beyond the essential

Well there you have it! King's Quest IV gets a respectable 55. That means it comes in equal with Space Quest I and third overall. To be honest, I thought it would be higher than that after my first session and lower than that after my second, but the third session evened things out and I ended up thoroughly enjoying the game despite some obvious flaws. A score of 55 means that Nicolaj wins the prediction points! I'll be changing the prediction system for the next game which means more people will have a chance to win points. That game will be Leisure Suit Larry 2, another Sierra game I've not played before. Looking forward to it, despite the many dead end warnings I've received already.