Friday, 21 September 2018

Game 100: Amazon: Guardians of Eden (1992) - Introduction

Written by TBD

If not for the title, I wouldn't be sure if it was a jungle adventure game or a pirate game?

Continuing my self-appointed position as official “Access Software” player, despite the previous three Access Software games all being played by different reviewers, I’m playing through a game I hadn’t heard of until it came up in our Year Ahead post - Amazon: Guardians of Eden.

The emerald inside the letter O is glinting. I suspect the emerald is a genie working for an evil Vizier.

The game’s back cover and manual specifically mention that it’s “patterned after those campy, exciting serials such as Flash Gordon, The Lost City and Rocketman” and, though I haven’t seen many of those serials, I know the style well.

For some reason I keep doing games that have been inspired by pulp serials or movies of the 1930s-1950s.

I’ve done the It Came From the Desert games, an Indiana Jones game, the Leather Goddesses games, and now I’m doing Amazon: Guardians of Eden. What pulp serial game will they make next?

I really want to see this serial made into a game. It has a jumping superhero with a revolver, a guy with a jetpack and a Mondas cyberman helmet and a fight between a spaceman armed with a pistol and a robot armed with a hammer. And that’s before even getting to the stratosphere zombie itself!

The manual includes some fun facts on the Amazon. I’m not sure at this point if this is used for copy protection or just interesting facts for the reader.

Will the game at some point ask how many times Texas would fit into the Amazon jungle?

Access seem like they enjoy being one of the first to utilize new technology - they had one of the first games using VGA and used some voiced dialogue as early as Mean Streets, used some real ‘actors’ in Countdown and had some rudimentary FMV cutscenes in Martian Memorandum.

So it’s not a big surprise that this game was one of the first to use Super VGA (which is not just regular VGA that happens to have been born under a red sun.)

Rather than using Super VGA in an obvious way, such us using the 4x resolution to give more detailed graphics, it just has the standard game window take up ¼ of the screen, with the rest of the screen used for the inventory window, chapter icons for quick access to previous chapters (in case I miss some important information I suppose) and some empty space. Weird.

The game window takes up the entirety of my monitor (apart from the black bars I have on each side due to my widescreen monitor) - VGA graphics!

The game window is now on the left middle of the screen but in exactly the same resolution as the VGA version - Super!

I suspect they decided on the Super VGA thing late in development and all/most of the art had already been drawn but they really wanted to use the technology so found a way to shoehorn it in.

As I don’t want to squint to see details in the world and am happy to press a key to access my inventory, I think I’ll stick to the VGA version, thanks. But I could change my mind later if excess inventory manipulation becomes commonplace. The game makes it easy to switch on the fly with a simple Alt-V keypress.

Access software again uses their Online Hint System - online in this case meaning in-game via the ? icon at the bottom of the screen.

I’ve chosen to turn hints off for this playthrough but have the option to just delete my config file and use hints at any point in the future. According to the manual you lose points for using it - you start the game with 170 points;  you lose 3 points for a Level 1 hint, 5 points for a Level 2 hint, and 10 points for a Level 3 hint. If you use all my points you won’t be able to get any more help. As long as you finish with more than 100 points I’ll get the best ending. When I finish the game I’ll be sure to reload and use up a bunch of points so I can see the ‘less exciting ending’ as well.

I like that, in mentioning the hint system, the back of the box makes fun of the system used by other adventure game companies.

Take that, Sierra and Lucasarts! Then again, those hint books and toll numbers made, according to some reports, more money than the game itself. Take that, Access!

Opening Movie

Here's the opening sequence in full, but if you just want to see the exciting animated cutscene part of it, skip to 2:30.

The game sets the mood right away with the black and white chapter card.

We start with an introduction to the characters - two brothers, Allen and Jason Roberts. Allen is currently in the Amazon basin doing research on… something… we’re not told what.

After a few pages of narration about the brothers, the cutscene continues as we zoom in on a small jungle camp.

The camera pans across in stalker vision, implying someone’s watching the expedition from the dark of the jungle. It’s very cinematic.

Then we switch to a view of a man sleeping in a tent while various shadows cross the front - the shadows draw their guns but fall after the sound and silhouette of arrows hit them. A third shadow appears and is much bigger (closer to the tent) - when the third shadow is shot he falls through the opening, waking the sleeping man.

I’d make exactly that face if my dead friend fell through my tent flap while I slept in my casual jeans.

I think that the surprised jeans man in Allen Roberts - I’m terrible with faces but the other shot we had of him gave him a beard so I’m going with it. We play as Allen’s brother, Jason, who’s just arrived at the office unaware of what’s gone on with his colleagues in the Amazon...

Based on the intro, this game seems to be sufficiently pulp-serial-like, following up on at least one of its back of the box promises. Then again it's also failed in another of its back of the box promises as I don't find the Super VGA to have unbelievable clarity.

My first look at the interface when I started the game gave me a feeling of familiarity - it’s very similar to the Martian Memorandum interface. Amazon uses icons instead of words, and combines a few verbs into one, while adding a CLIMB verb.

I notice there’s no USE icon, but assume a combination of OPEN/MOVE, GET and TALK will suffice for this game’s purposes

So now to the important question - what PISSED rating will this game get?

Looking at some contemporary reviews:
  • Computer Gaming World had good things to say about the game - comparing the story favourably with the Hollywood era it’s homaging.
  • Dragon Magazine gave Amazon 5 out of 5, but seeing as I’ve never seen a reference to Dragon Magazine giving anything less than 5 out of 5, I don’t think that means a hell of a lot.

Our PISSED ratings of other Access games have ranged from 42 to 53.

My biggest concern after playing Martian Memorandum, which I enjoyed, is will Access Software save some of their budget money for proofreading this time? Having played through the intro and reading the back of the box without seeing a single error, I’m feeling optimistic about the answer. And I'm ready to find out! Let's go!

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.

32 comments:

  1. 48 (average of Access games mentioned, rounded)

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  2. Let's hope they stepped up their game: 55

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  3. 51 is my guess (an extra one point for that wonderful SVGA mode!)

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  4. I'll go with 54, despite my utter hatred of the font Access liked to use for their games...

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  5. It's been a while, so I will go for 53. No idea why.

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  6. Isn't this game 100? We should party!

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    1. Indeed it is. We've managed to cover a lot of games!

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    2. I just fixed the game #. We still had the KQ one in the post. (Oops)

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    3. Woo! Congratulations everyone, feels like the first hundred have gone pretty quickly, can't wait for the next hundred!

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    4. Big oops. Thanks for fixing it.

      And woohoo - we have our century!

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    5. There have been a LOT of games this year (1992); there are 38 games in 1992 total. About a quarter of all played mainline games so far are from 1992! 1993, 1995 and 1996 have the potential to be even longer (but 1994 is oddly short).

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  7. I'll say 49 without really having any experience at all with this game

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  8. Whether you like this game depends very much on how much you lie pulp. The plot and especially the actors are sufficiently B-movish, so if that's your thing, you might enjoy it. A clear negative are the various action sequences, which range from boring to infuriating. I'll guess 44.

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    1. Well, B-movies are something I enjoy, but action sequences in adventure games are not something I enjoy unless they're done particularly well.

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  9. 42 for me, in honor of finishing up Hitchhiker's Guide

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  10. It's with some sadness that I share this news with you today: Telltale Games is closing.

    Here is the company's statement:

    Today Telltale Games made the difficult decision to begin a majority studio closure following a year marked by insurmountable challenges. A majority of the company’s employees were dismissed earlier this morning, with a small group of 25 employees staying on to fulfill the company’s obligations to its board and partners. CEO Pete Hawley issued the following statement: “It's been an incredibly difficult year for Telltale as we worked to set the company on a new course. Unfortunately, we ran out of time trying to get there. We released some of our best content this year and received a tremendous amount of positive feedback, but ultimately, that did not translate to sales. With a heavy heart, we watch our friends leave today to spread our brand of storytelling across the games industry.” Telltale will issue further comments regarding its product portfolio in the coming weeks.

    We're not going to get to their first game until 2005, and it will even be some time before we play any of the games their founders worked on. Telltale is one of the companies in the LucasArts tradition and I have been particularly interested in them with their licensed games. They are one of the few companies to have created adventures based on comic books, for example. That isn't even to mention that they are the developers behind Monkey Island VI, a worthy successor to the game that inspired Trickster to create this blog.

    With more than two dozen adventures under their belt, they have been one of the most important companies in modern adventure gaming. Whether you like some of their episodic choices or not, their closing is a sad day for our favorite genre.

    Given how far we are from playing any of their games here, I don't think we should do a special retrospective post. I wanted to at least make a note of their passing and provide a place to comment on it.

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    1. While I liked the quality of their work and the spirit behind it, I had a lot of trouble wrapping my head around the episodic games, and although I enjoyed the Sam & Max games, which is how I was introduced to them, I never really wanted to invest that kind of money on games that, to me, felt like small, snack-sized portions of games. Which was a shame, because the writing and design were good. I guess I just didn't want to sacrifice my principals, even if it was just keeping another adventure developer in business.

      That said, it's still a blow, even if they didn't really make adventures so much anymore, and I will dig up my copies of Sam & Max seasons 1 and 2 for a tributary replay later today.

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    2. Ah, this news is not so good. A rockpapershotgun article also points out the employees have been left in a pretty bad situation, that there was already a wave of layoffs last year, and the working conditions were problematic. Fortunately adventure games can still be profitably produced by small, focused teams.

      I have a couple legit bought Telltale games, but somehow never got around to even starting on them... maybe my attention span has been spoiled by quick-reward RPGs, a genre somewhat closely related to adventure games and therefore competing for the same attention slice.

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    3. That is sad - I've been a fan of their games since Sam and Max Season 1. I can think of only two games that had me emotional enough to have tears in my eyes - Telltale's Walking Dead Season 1 is one of them.

      I remember playing Tales of Monkey Island as the episodes came out but usually bought each Season after they'd been completed and played them as a single game - they feel like a complete game that way, the different episodes just feeling like the chapters that many adventure games are.

      I haven't played their latest games though - this blog has been taking most of my adventure game playing attention the past few years.

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    4. In truth, the only games of theirs that I played was Monkey Island and Back to the Future. There are a lot of others that I wish I would have bought now.

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    5. Back to the Future was kind of the game that turned me off of them. They gave out chapter 1 for free, hoping to get people hooked -- and it was well acted and animated (and even caused me to need a better 3D card, I recall)... but it was so, so short and easy. I finished the first chapter so fast, I was afraid that it would not be a worthwhile use of money to pay for the rest of them.

      But I remember really liking the acting and voices, I think they used Christopher Lloyd, right?

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    6. Christopher Lloyd played Doc, yes. Marty was played by A.J. LoCascio, except that I am fairly positive that Michael J. Fox played one character in one of the episodes as a tribute.

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    7. That is sad, I didn't play many of their games but The wolf among us was great, I was seriously looking forward to another one in that series. They were easy, but the plot and acting was excellent to me as well

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    8. The Back to the Future game not only had Christopher Lloyd as Doc and Michael J. Fox as a few cameos in the fifth chapter, but also Claudia Wells as Jennifer (who played her in the first movie), and the whole thing was (co-)written by Bob Gale, one of the writers of the movies, so it's probably the closest thing that you can get to a true sequel.

      Sad to see Telltale go. Some of their games I really liked (Monkey Island, Back to the Future), but some of them were pretty good but niche (I really enjoyed Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People, but you've got to be into Homestar Runner for any of it to make sense). I got turned off by their Wallace and Gromit games (I like the Wallace and Gromit shorts/movies but the game was just flat-out boring) and haven't really followed them since.

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    9. https://mixnmojo.com/news/PSA-Download-your-Telltale-library-DRM-free

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  11. https://nordic.ign.com/phoenix-wright-ace-attorney-trilogy/19067/news/ace-attorney-trilogy-coming-to-consoles-and-steam

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  12. Alex Romanov here. I guess 59. I know this game by heart, and will provide info as I did with some other games.

    Never played the game in english though, so not sure how well written it originally was.

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  13. Interesting hint system, I think it is a fair way to help players through difficult areas without giving the answers away. If it works well I expect it to boos the score a bit, going to go with 55. The graphics look well drawn but the animation seems a bit awkward.

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  14. So, weird story: when I was a kid my friend's dad worked at Access Software, and I distinctly remember visiting their offices (I think as a Cub Scout activity, maybe? This was a really long time ago) and they showed off this game to all us kids, mostly because it was one of the few non-golf games they were working on at the time. I don't think I ever actually played it afterward, but that inventory screen is one of those random things I remember decades later, so it's weird to see it pop up here. I also seem to vaguely remember that the higher-ups at the company were letting this be created so people on the team would have a break from making golf games (their big seller), but that may be inaccurate memories from nearly 30 years ago, so don't quote me on that.

    In any case, I know nothing else about this game, but I'll throw my hat in the ring and say...52?

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    1. My Access story, like many other teenagers of the time, I had created a fake newsletter/zine/whatever and would approach the game companies for review copies of games and other things. I got onto Access's mailing list, and would periodically get free games for review, and a lot of gimmic stuff, one of the best being a Links-themed mini-Maglite (real brand one, not a knockoff). I might actually still have that.

      And I remember them being the "golf and Tex Murphy" company, just like LucasArts eventually became the Star Wars-only company in the 2000s...

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  15. Played this one back in the day and my hazy memories are generally positive. A solid and enjoyable adventure, IIRC. I predict 55 as it should be able to surpass previous Access offerings.

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  16. Heard mediocre things about this so I'll go with 50.

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