Friday, 26 August 2016

Missed Classic 27: Antheads: It Came From The Desert II (1990) - Introduction

Written by TBD

It Came From the Desert was recently voted the best Missed Classic we've played to date.

I heartily accept this award on behalf of the town of Lizard Breath

Oh great! This guy's back! He ran out of town at the height of the crisis last time. Surely someone in town has to be a better mayor than him.

With It Came From the Desert getting that accolade, it seems like an appropriate time to look at the sequel.

In true B-movie style, the first game ended with “The End... or is it?” covering my screen, thus leaving itself open for a sequel. Of all Cinemaware's games why did they choose It Came From the Desert for a sequel? I think Cinemaware's David Riordan explains it best:
“Every time we put out a game, we carefully evaluate the responses from reviewers, industry professionals and game players... When Desert 1 came out and got rave reviews, won awards, sold thousands of copies and so on, we knew we had to do a follow-up. The Desert gaming environment is constructed to allow for alternative scenarios, so we didn't have to start over from scratch.”
I particularly like the quaintness of 80s game developers getting excited about selling thousands of copies.
“When the original Desert started to get too big, we split these ideas off into a separate scenario which eventually became Desert II: Antheads. One idea that never made it into either game, unfortunately, was the original plan to have multiple monsters – mutant bunnies, lizards and so on... after looking at the disk space requirements for doing one creature convincingly, we decided to do one creature well, rather than multiple creatures poorly.”
I'm not sure if I find their multiple monster idea awesome or ridiculous.

I keep changing my mind over whether this game should be classified as a sequel or an expansion pack – it calls itself a 'data disk' but most reviews call it a sequel as it has a totally different story.

The game was only available via mail order in the US – but boxed versions were available in Europe. Like most expansions, Antheads required the original game to work.

They had originally planned to make it as a data disk for the first game, but made enough changes that they had to do something different. As they'd already published the purchase price, and sending multiple floppy disks would have been too expensive, when you receive the game the first thing you have to do is get 3 blank disks, run the copy program on the Antheads disk and spend 20 minutes sitting around, swapping disks when prompted.

Ah, nostalgia

For those of you who pay attention to the tags sitting silently at the bottom of our posts, you'll see that It Came From the Desert II is a 1990 game while It Came From the Desert was a 1991 game. Before you start worrying about the stability of the space-time continuum I'll let you know that the original game came out on the Amiga in 1989 but didn't hit the PC until 1991 – while this game came out on the Amiga in 1990 and wasn't ported to any other platforms.

The game comes with a manual of sorts (seems to be just a single piece of paper printed on both sides based on what I've seen) which includes a little background information on our hero, Brick Nash!

Of course, what's a Cinemaware game without a cinematic intro...

The intro uses exactly the same graphics as the first game's intro, but has a different voice-over. 
"Not once, in the five years since the defeat of the mutant ants, had anyone suspected that there was a second queen - thirsting for the destruction of all that is human!"
And so, our game begins! I wake up in a house with two people looking at me

Even after playing the first game for hours I never knew they were related

One thing I notice straight away is that there's a lot more dialogue in this game. The opening conversation goes on for quite a bit, and Brick has a much more noticeable personality than his predecessor, Dr Greg Bradley.

Fortunately I was found by people who were sympathetic to my cause. Biff and Dusty both know who I am and that my actions have saved the town. I also had help from the local mechanic, Elmer, who towed my truck where the government will never find it.

Less fortunately, the entire reason I went to Lizard Breath in the first place, Dr. Wells, has been dead for five years. Biff will take me to the doctor's old lab when things cool down

After Dusty and Biff leave I enter the map screen, and receive a bulletin that G-men are scouring the town looking for a plutonium hijacker (me!)

I check out the pub and overhear some conversations
  • some tough guys promise to beat up the hijacker if they ever find him
  • Billy Bob's now nothing but a bum, which makes me smile – I don't like that guy
  • Benny's shift at number 1 pump finished a while ago but he hasn't arrived yet
I make my way to the Ore plant in order to get to Mine 1.

Looks like a puzzle

It's a very simple puzzle, I have three possible responses. I choose to tell him I'm a day laborer and he lets me past because everyone seems to be coming down with the flu. I go from mine to mine, but the second miner gets suspicious and makes a phone call as I leave. At the third mine I get threatened by the miner who just received the phone call. I sensed a fight coming up so went back to the ore plant. But when I got there the mine super blew a whistle and a G-man popped up from behind a shed and attacked me with a knife. According to wikipedia, a G-man is an FBI agent.

Apparently when FBI agents find dangerous fugitives, they get in knife fights with them

Well, in my first small adventure I encountered some minor dialogue puzzles, which the first game didn't have, and got myself stabbed by an FBI agent. I played a lot more and ended up failing to save the town. This game only gives me 10 days to save the town whereas the first game gives me 15. But I'm getting better at the action sequences and so expect better luck in future attempts.

Now get your score guesses in before our next episode, where we find out why the game got its title, meet a few of Lizard Breath's new residents and attempt to break into a safe!

To help you with the score;
  • I gave the Amiga version of It Came From the Desert a PISSED rating of 57, but there was some suggestion I might have gone a little too high.
  • The June 1990 issue of ACE Magazine rated Antheads 902 (presumably out of 1000) and said it was better than its predecessor. The same issue gave Loom 845. Will I agree and rate this game above Loom's PISSED rating of 65?
Session time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 45 minutes


  1. As a general idea, now that we are doing games on multiple platforms, I hope that we use the "first published" dates going forward. It helps avoid the space-time continuum woes while also reaffirming that we are no longer just the "DOS Adventure Gamers"!

    My guess is 48.

    (BTW: The official TAG spreadsheet has 51 for the original game. Is that in error?)

    1. Amiga version got 57, but the spreadsheet has the DOS score.

  2. The men in black, their lips are sealed... wait, wasn't the FBI agent the main guy in the movie Them! that inspired this set of games? Talk about shifting values.

    Oh, and the dice says 90... alright, game of the year right here.

  3. It doesn't seem that different from the first part.. Let's say 53!

  4. I'm going to say 58, one extra point than the original. Why? Because of the lead character's name. Brick expletive deleted Nash. Action hero name or what?

  5. I'll guess 55. Since it's kind of an expansion, it's hard to say whether it will turn out to be as good as the original, or have too much repetition of themes from the original.

  6. I'm still amazed that the first one won Best Missed Classic. I'm going to hope the score for this one gets corrected downward - I'll guess 48.

    1. I chalk that up to score and it was the most "modern" game we had played as a Classic. Too bad though because I had hoped Mystery House or another influential early game would have taken that cake. Perhaps we'll do a new run some day...

  7. No higher than 50 surely, how many sequels are better than the originals?

  8. Ah, Antheads. As an avid Amiga afficionado, I'm not unfamiliar with this. I remember it to be quite similar to the original, with the story being different ( but not THAT different ). I believe all the action elements are the same as ( with an added twist to one of them ).

    In my opinion, calling it an addon or datadisk is more correct than referring to it as a separate game. If it were released today, it would probably be called DLC.

    I'm guessing 51

    1. Yup, think Brood War to the original Starcraft. :) Entirely new story, same size as the original, using mostly the same resources (charaters / units, graphics, music, etc.), with just a couple of additions to each.

      I think "expansion" is a better term for this than "DLC". The latter suggests, to me, a smaller bit of optional content, not an entirely new story.

  9. 59! TWO points higher than the original!! (I have never played either of them.)

  10. This game scared the shit out of me when I was little. Those human to ant transformations! arrghhh. Those gave me nightmares.

  11. 54. Just because the Amiga was awesome and this was an exclusive