Saturday, 13 July 2019

Nippon Safes Inc. - Imperial Makeover

Written by Torch

In my last post, I managed to get sort of stuck. I imagine I could’ve brute forced my way through, but there’s only so many times one has the patience to try every action on every screen. Luckily commenter Vetinari came to my rescue with some much needed hints on how to proceed.

I only had a couple of items in my possession, but one of them was a saw, and I was pretty hung up on trying to make the saw in this chapter as useful as the wrench in Doug’s. Alas, what was needed was the “bowl” I found outside Doug’s apartment, that was in fact an empty perfume bottle ( or “flacon” ). Well, after filling this up with water from one of the fountains in the park, I can now go to the department store, pass the bottle off as a new one and ask for a refund.

Change is always possible for those who believe, Donna

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Missed Classic 71: Asylum (1981) – Introduction

by Will Moczarski

Med Systems Marathon Overview – Catch up here!:

(a) 1980 Summary
(b) Reality Ends (1980)
(c) Rat‘s Revenge / Deathmaze 5000 (1980)
(d) Labyrinth (1980)

If 1980 was the year of programming for Med Systems with a total of 14 releases advertised in various magazines, 1981 certainly was the year of advertising. Many Med Systems games, among them Deathmaze 5000 and Labyrinth, got more attention with belated reviews – in fact, Rat‘s Revenge which was released in September 1980 was only reviewed by the 80 Microcomputing Magazine in November 1981. This was all part of a larger focus on the TRS-80 as a gaming platform: Scott Adams’s Adventure International games had taken hold on the Tandy, and “micro games” certainly were a new trend.

While Med Systems released only five games (four of them adventure games) in 1981, they got a lot more media attention than before. The August 1981 issue of the 80 Microcomputing Magazine is especially noteworthy, as it contains a feature about micro games which quotes William Denman as well as an interview-based article about Frank Corr. Furthermore, the company name pops up in a few more general articles, and their 3-D adventures had apparently become a brand of their own. In the October 1981 issue of the same magazine, Med Systems was able to afford three full-page ads back to back which is quite an investment. The prices are probably not comparable with, say, late 1990’s game magazines, but still this makes Med Systems one of their major customers.

I’ll go into more detail about all of this once we reach the 1981 summary of this marathon but today I’d like to talk about Asylum. Now this is not only the most famous Med Systems game by far but also one with a very confusing backstory. When I started this marathon I thought that this was the game that had piqued my interest as I used to play an adventure game called Asylum on the Commodore 64. However, that was its sequel Asylum II (1982) which was renamed as Asylum for all subsequent 1983 (Atari) and 1986 (Commodore, DOS) releases. The 1981 Asylum is entirely new to me, and I’m looking forward to playing it quite a bit.

Asylum is another maze game but with more adventure elements than the previous ones. It is also the third part of the so-called “Continuum Series” but that brand name apparently only came up in late 1981. In Mike Nadeau’s aforementioned article about Frank Corr (titled “Frank Corr – Making the Ultimate Maze”), Corr suggests that in Asylum everything was “twice as good as Deathmaze”. He attributes that to a new routine they used to store graphics as data. Asylum is also supposed to be a lot easier than Deathmaze which suggests that there are possibly not so many arbitrary puzzles in it. I’d like that! The game was co-written by Corr and Denman and released in February 1981. Its vast success apparently led to a sequel, programmed by Denman only. This is also the last we’ll hear of Frank Corr although it seems that he had great plans for his next game which was supposed to be set inside a space station or a similar setting and use octagonal rooms.

You didn’t warn...wait, you did.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Batman Returns - World’s Greatest Thumb-Twiddler (Lost!)

Written by Joe Pranevich

Who’s the dark knight detective that’s a hit with all the chicks? Batman! Your darned right. Welcome back to Batman Returns! Last week, I completed the first day by discovering (and stealing) an innocuous awards ceremony tape from the mayor’s office. We spent the day exploring and dealing with thugs from a circus gang, but did not spy either Penguin or Catwoman. Thus far, the game feels a bit thin with empty areas and not a lot that to explore thanks to the verbless interface. That said, the graphics are quite good and I’m enjoying bits of Danny Elfman in the soundtrack-- his Batman theme is one of the musical highpoints of my childhood and adds so much to this game.

And yet, you might sense that something is off. As Alex Romanov noted in the comments to my last post, I made a critical mistake that I did not discover until the end of this session. Things didn't go well for the Caped Crusader. Rather than whitewash it, I will narrate what happened and you can see for yourself how I spent the next four hours of play time. I am not sure whether I was completely doomed after the first day’s mistake or if there was some way that I could have recovered, but either way this is a “Lost!” post. I will try again from the start next week.

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Missed Classic: The Archers - Won or Lost? (With Final Rating)

By Ilmari

Last time I managed to complete two of the four parts of The Archer. Now, it's time to try the two remaining ones.

Part three: Eddie Grundy

Trevor Harrison, the voice of Eddie Grundy

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Nippon Safes Inc. - Been There, Donna That (Request for Assistance)

Written by Torch

The perceptive reader will know that in my previous post, I finished Doug’s chapter. It ended with him being knocked out by a mysterious stranger as soon as he’d escaped with the Jade Buddha he was assigned to steal from the Saku-Rambo monastery.

This means that it’s time to pick a new character to play. And for the very good reason of “why not?” I picked Donna Fatale, whose most important character trait - as we learned from the intro - is being sexy.

Yes, this is the game’s description of Donna

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Batman Returns - World’s Greatest TV Watcher

Written by Joe Pranevich

Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na Batman! I hope you got your score votes in because it’s time to play Batman Returns. Given how excited Bill Kunkel was to create a Batman game, I am secretly rooting for this one to be better than its reputation, even if he was ultimately dissatisfied with the result. By the time the rating comes, I am certain that I can grade it without bias.

The game opens at twilight on a December night in Gotham City. The skyline is oddly muted; the incandescent bulbs in the towering offices are barely able to pierce the gloom. Danny Elfman’s iconic Batman score rises up through our computer speakers. Suddenly, the Bat-Signal appears in the clouds. Once again, the Gotham City Police has called upon the aid of their secret benefactor-in-the-shadows, Batman. We zoom in to the Batcave where the Caped Crusader is dressed and ready for action. The bat-cursor appears. What should we do first?

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Missed Classic 70: The Archers (1986) - Introduction

By Ilmari

As far as national anthems go, God Save the Queen is one of the most monotone, dreary and depressing. It is no wonder that a movement, started by the comedian Billy Connely, has long spoken for a jollier and more spirited song, which you could well imagine humming, while walking, in “a genteel abandon of a lifelong teetotaller who has suddenly taken to drink”, through a sunny Borshetshire countryside to the local Flower & Produce Show, pondering whether you should dag the sheep yourself or whether you should hire a professional shearer for a proper crutching. I am speaking, of course, of Barwick Green, the theme tune for The Archers.

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Intermission: Med Systems Marathon – 1980 Rundown

by Will Moczarski


According to issue 017 of “Compute! Magazine” (Oct. 1981), “MED SYSTEMS has been publishing and distributing software worldwide since 1979”. If my research is correct, Med Systems Software started developing and publishing games for the TRS-80 (and subsequently the Commodore PET and the Apple ][) more or less at the same time. In 1980, they not only released Rat’s Revenge, Deathmaze 5000, Labyrinth  and Reality Ends but also ten more games and applications. Having reviewed the four available adventure games in previous “Missed Classics” playthroughs, I will dedicate this post to a short rundown of the games that don’t really fit the “Adventure Gamer” template, as Med Systems appears to have been a consistently interesting company.

Multiple attempts to contact William F. “Mike” Denman, jr., who apparently was one of the company’s two lead programmers as well as its president, sadly all but failed. I’ve tried several e-mail addresses and social media platforms, but alas, I never even received a reply. The other main protagonist of the company’s early years was Frank Corr, jr., whom I didn’t even find a trace of online. Most of the early games are still available in some form – several of the manuals can also be found in web archives. Many of the games don’t have in-game credits, so there’s basically no telling who wrote the games without surviving manuals. Sadly, three of the adventure games released in 1980 (or even before?) appear to be lost altogether, but more on that below.

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.

Friday, 7 June 2019

What's Your Story - Vetinari

Answers: Vetinari
Introduction and Captions: TBD

Time to introduce someone who's recently been commenting on our Nippon Safes, Inc. posts - Vetinari!

Si non confectus, non reficiat

Vetinari has admitted to commenting once before, anonymously, on a post on the Cyborg Missed Classic.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Nippon Safes Inc. - A Tale of Two City Names

Written by Torch

The name’s Nuts, Doug Nuts. I’m an electronics genius with a mission. And that mission is… what was it again? Oh yeah, to steal a jade Buddha from a safe in the “Saku-Rambo” Monastery. Only problem is, I have no idea where to find the monastery.

It’s time to check out the rest of the great city of Tyoko! Or Tioko! Frankly it’s getting a bit silly that the game can’t decide on a spelling for the name of the city, so going forward I plan on doing a count of all the city name references I find, to see which one is used most frequently, and will thus be the official name. Check the summary at the bottom to see if your favourite comes out on top. But now, let’s start exploring! And by exploring I mean wandering around aimlessly, clicking stuff until something useful happens.

The city center consists of a number of screens. The exits aren’t always logical or easy to spot, so I hope I’ve found them all. Due north from Honest Chan’s, however, I find this busy street.

“Busy” means featuring more than 2 people

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Missed Classic 68: Reality Ends (1980) - Introduction

By Will Moczarski

A general rule seems to be that the more work you put into thorough research, the more work you create for yourself as a result. Does that make sense? Well, I had ambitiously planned to write a short connecting blog post to describe the non-adventure games Med Systems Software released between Labyrinth and Asylum but as a result I found out that there are many more, almost undocumented adventure games by the company I hadn't even heard about. Med Systems appears to have been as prolific as, say, Sirius Software, and not much less innovative, either. Today's post deals with the first of the overlooked adventure games that came out in 1980 – the same year as Deathmaze 5000 and Labyrinth so who knows which one came first? – and some of the non-adventure games that probably fall into the period between the second and the third "Continuum" adventure games Labyrinth and Asylum. The game in question is called Reality Ends and there is not much information about it to be found on the internet. Actually, Jason Dyer just played it on his blog “Renga in Blue” but I have kept myself from reading his posts because I want to avoid spoilers.

Reality Ends is yet another TRS-80 game but it uses a different premise, a different engine and a different approach to adventure gaming than the 3D maze/adventure crossover games I've previously been writing about. The introductory screen looks familiar because of a sort of corporate identity thing they seem to have been going on but the story is really unique. I can honestly say that I know of no other adventure game or even computer game to have a similar idea at its core. It "places you in a reality composed of over 200 parallel universes. You must move from universe to universe seeking the necessary materials to destroy Baldir." You have 400 moves to accomplish that or "reality dissolves". Sound weird? Well, the game isn't. The "universes" are actually clever metaphors for the rooms. Each room has a different description and the grid consists of 18 by 12 (216) "universes". The descriptions are just a little bit different, though, stressing the idea of hopping between parallel universes instead of just moving through adherent spaces.

“Yeah.” (Marlo Stanfield feels at home.)

Thursday, 30 May 2019

New Poll: Choose the Missed Classic of Gaming Year 1992

By TAG team

We are nearing the end of the year 1992, so it’s time to continue some traditions. When we reached the final games of 1991, our readers had a chance to choose the best of the Missed Classics we had completed thus far. Now, it’s time to choose the best of the Missed Classics completed after the previous poll. Just like last time, we’ll continue with a quick rundown of the candidates.

The poll of 1991 was won by Cinemaware’s It Came From The Desert. Since then, we’ve covered its sequel, Antheads: It Came From The Desert II. Will Cinemaware be able to win twice in a row?

I'm all antsy for the excitement

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Nippon Safes Inc. - Three’s Company

By Torch

In my previous post, we took a gander at the manual and discussed the history of the developers, but not much was said about the game itself, so let’s get cracking (literally) on that.

I start off as Doug Nuts. (So no quiz-based character selection as of yet.) He’s underground in what looks like a sewer and has seemingly huffed and puffed his way through a brick wall and is now facing something that looks suspiciously like a bank vault.

Who exactly is this “BANK” sign intended for?

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Missed Classic: Ballyhoo - Won! And Final Rating

Written by Joe Pranevich

From 1980 to 1986, Infocom charmed the gaming world with their text adventures. I’ve just defeated Ballyhoo, their 19th and final independently-released game. It’s a moment that I want to savor, even as we have a whole bunch more games to go before we get to Return to Zork. It seems crazy to me that I’ve been writing about Infocom games for nearly three years and I’ve just now reached this point. Ballyhoo has been a nice surprise to end this first leg of the Infocom saga on: a game that is far from perfect, but more than I might have expected given its reputation.

We ended last week with the realization that half the circus crew was involved in the kidnapping. We have connected the ransom note to one or more of the clowns (although which ones are less certain), we know that Rimshaw hypnotized someone with the headphones, and we know that Andrew and the new lion tamer are also involved. That’s a decent chunk of the circus crew, but I have no idea what they hope to get out of the deal. It doesn’t all add up yet, but it might make more sense if I get my hands on the ransom note.

I had to look up more hints than I would have liked to close out this game. If I had more time, I would have done a “Request for Assistance” but I’m writing this now as we’re just about to post final ratings for Rome and Enchantia. The clock is ticking for me to play Batman Returns so I hope you will excuse the desire to get to the end. You’ll see the reasons why I needed hints in a moment, but overall I found that the game doesn’t quite hold together as well in its final puzzles. I’m eager for your opinions, even if you think I just dropped the ball.

Friday, 24 May 2019

Curse of Enchantia: Final Rating

Written by Alfred n the Fettuc

Oh this is going to be a good one. Like I said in the first post, I’ve already tried playing Enchantia a very long time ago but never really got past the underwater section. Now that I’ve been forced to do so, I discovered what can only be described as a masterpiece in bad game design. Let’s see how it fares in the PISSED system. Spoiler alert: it probably won’t go very high.

Splat indeed

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Rome: Pathway to Power - Final Rating

Written by TBD with Reiko

In a rare case for The Adventure Gamer, this game was actually played by two of us. Reiko introduced us to the game and started it, making the first gameplay post, and then I took over when Reiko was unable to complete it. As Reiko was fairly early in the game, I started it anew, quickly playing through the first chapter in order to catch up.

And as I played the game, it grew on me… grew on me like a malignant tumour. I started off finding it acceptably average, but it quickly became tedious as each chapter devolved into a game of trial-and-error, and sometimes the worst form of trial-and-error, where the randomisation had me continually try the same thing over and over until luck fell my way.

Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is a definition of Rome: Pathway to Power - Albert Einstein

Friday, 17 May 2019

Curse of Enchantia - WON!!

Written by Alfred n the Fettuc

That’s it! I conquered Curse of Enchantia! I slayed the beast! Victory! Free at last!

I have mixed feelings about it. One part of me is very proud to have done this without a walkthrough (even if the temptation was very strong a few times) and the other part is astonished by the vacuity of the whole thing. I think my soul has died a little by playing this game to completion. Good thing it was for the blog, if it helps at least one person to stay away from this game in the future, maybe my sacrifice wasn’t for nothing.

But for now, let’s all go back in the enchanted land of Enchantia one last time in order to help Brad get rid of the evil sorceress once and for all! Yay!

Don’t worry, Brad. It’ll all be over real soon.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Missed Classic: Ballyhoo - Circus Minimus

Written by Joe Pranevich

Welcome back! Last time out, we started into Infocom’s fourth mystery game, Ballyhoo. Unlike our previous mysteries, this one is not (yet!) a murder. Instead, we have a kidnapping… at a circus! We will have to use all of our investigative skills to find out who kidnapped the owner’s daughter and why, even though the owner doesn’t know we are helping and probably wouldn’t be that thrilled to find out that some random patron was snooping around his circus after closing time. Why are we doing this again? Because we secretly dream of the Big Top ourselves! And of being a detective, apparently. Actually, I have no idea why we’re doing this but someone has to save the girl and so it might as well be us.

I apologize for the small delay in getting this out. We’ve had “plague house” here at the local Infocom Marathon Headquarters and so much of my time has been spent either being sick, cleaning up after others being sick, or both at the same time. It doesn’t make for the best head-space for writing about a fun-filled circus holiday. To compensate, I’ve made this entry a bit longer than usual. As they say, send in the clowns!

Monday, 13 May 2019

Game 108: Nippon Safes, Inc. (1992) - Introduction

Written by Torch

Doesn’t look very safe to me

Two years after my first ever playthrough for The Adventure Gamer, I’m finally up for another. Quite the gap, but - surprise! - we’re still doing games from 1992! We sure are taking our time here, or perhaps 1992 was just a particularly bountiful year. Either way, the next game up is Nippon Safes, Inc. This game was developed by Dynabyte software, an Italian game creator. I couldn’t find a lot of information about this company, but running a couple of Italian wikis through Google translate helped a little.

Dynabyte. I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that it’s a portmanteau of dynamite and byte

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Rome: Pathway to Power - LOST!

Written by TBD

Hector’s Journal #4: "The Emperor considers me a threat to his power. I'll show him a threat. I'll curry Cleopatra's favour and see if she can help me oust the Emperor. I'm sure I'd be at least as good an Emperor - I can eat grapes and raise taxes all day with the best of them... and I rarely argue with shrubbery..."

When last we looked in on Hector the slave owner, invader, pillager, briber and attempted assassin-hirer, he'd just been made a Consul and sent to Egypt to protect Cleopatra.

It seems Cleopatra's throne is being threatened by her brother, Ptolemy XXIV. Now, I looked up Ptolemy XXIV and couldn't find him, but Google pointed me to the Wikipedia page of Ptolemy VIII instead.

I'm sure if I look up all royal families in history I'll find something weirder than this, but when your niece, stepdaughter and wife are all the same person perhaps it's time to stop trying to pick up women at family reunions.

Friday, 3 May 2019

Curse of Enchantia - In the Nose of Madness

Written by Alfred n the Fettuc

Just when I thought this game couldn’t get any weirder, it throws you a curveball and creates the most mindf..king world I’ve seen in a long time. Let’s just say this part of the game would make the island of fairy tales in King’s Quest VI look like a perfectly normal office bullpen. But first things first, I had to reach the next part, which is easier said than done when you’re back in the same town area without any change and no idea on how to progress in the game…

Rejoice citizens! Your savior is back!

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Missed Classic 67: Ballyhoo (1986) - Introduction

Written by Joe Pranevich

Infocom careened into 1986 on the backs of two contradictory pieces of information. Sales had been up in 1985 for an all-time high of $11.5 million, and yet the company was falling apart. The Cornerstone flop was a distant memory, but the winter layoffs that followed were not. Marc Blank, founder and co-developer of the Zork series, Deadline, and Enchanter was out. So was Al Vezza, the CEO. Mike Berlyn had left even before Fooblitzky had been released with the graphics team as one of the layoff casualties. Infocom was in active negotiations with Activision for a buyout, although how much of this was known during the development of Ballyhoo is unclear. What is clear is that the announcement of Activision’s intent to merge came out within days of Ballyhoo’s release. This would be the last game ever released by an independent Infocom.

Into this maelstrom entered Jeff O’Neill, a first time Implementor. Originally from California, he came to Infocom with a background in journalism and a smidge of computer science. He put those skills to use doing QA on Wishbringer, Hitchhiker’s Guide, and likely other games. He also subbed in as a writer for the The New Zork Times, the company newsletter. Unlike many of the other Imps, Jeff has kept his privacy post-Infocom and so we know less about him than other team members. We’ll see his touch here and in Nord and Bert (1987), plus he was one of the contributors to Bureaucracy (also 1987). I look forward to getting to know him through his games.

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Rome: Pathway to Power - The Political Machine

Written by TBD

Hector’s Journal #3: "I've been a Senator for 15 minutes and I've already been given the opportunity to become a Consul, a position of power second only to the Emperor himself. So how do I get the populace to vote for me? Sensible and affordable policies? Tax breaks for low income families? Screw all that. I figure the most effective way of getting this promotion is by bribing as many citizens as I can! It's times like these I'm wondering if I should have spent more time earlier in the game stealing money..."

I hate Rome! Each chapter of the game has involved me restarting it over and over again until I get it right. And these sections have gotten progressively harder. To top it all off, while each section is a self-contained level, the amount of gold I have is carried over, so when I've only just passed an earlier section with minimal extra funds, I make each subsequent section harder. Can I make it too hard to finish? I certainly hope not. I actually enjoy the repetition the first few times I have to restart, as I see different things, but after a few goes I see nothing new and just have to plod through hoping the luck of the dice turn my way. I thought the reloading of saved games was tedious in the previous chapter, but this chapter leaves Britain for dead in the 'you failed - start again' stakes. Sigh. Oh well, Let's continue playing and see how I go.

When last we looked in on Hector the slave owner, invader and pillager, he'd just been made a Senator by leading an army into killing a lot of Britons. Being a responsible slave owner, I enquire about Barbarus' health.

Good, because I'll probably be having you fight until you die at the arena later today.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Curse of Enchantia - Ice Rage: The Meltdown

Written by Alfred n the Fettuc

We should really make a list of the seven cardinal sins of adventure game design someday (even if the list would probably be closer to seventy) but I’m pretty sure two sins would make the list pretty easily.
  1. You should never make a puzzle so obscure the only way to solve it is to stumble upon the solution by sheer luck or while trying something completely different.
  2. When you know the solution to a puzzle, you should be able to solve it without having to spend one hour trying to make the game understand what you’re trying to do.
What is interesting is that these two problems are directly related to the interface of the game. While the former is bound to happen again and again with the interface getting simpler with every game (for example I want to climb on a stool but my character ends up pushing it), the latter is bound to disappear for exactly the same reason. In ye olde text adventures you have to discover exactly the way the developer wants you to interact with the game, but with a one-click interface, you don’t have to figure out the logic, you just have to click on the item and see what happens.

What’s really great with Curse of Enchantia is that you have these two sins combined, which is something of a rarity. Add the fact maybe that “having only one music track for a ten-hour long game” might be one of the sins and you’re in for an unforgettable experience.

After a nice long chat with my friend the yeti, it’s time to get back to it…

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Missed Classic 66: The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ (1985)

By Ilmari
"I have decided to be a poet. My father said that there isn’t a suitable career structure for poets and no pensions and other boring things, but I am quite decided. He tried to interest me in becoming a computer operator, but I said, ‘I need to put my soul into my work and it is well known that computers haven’t got a soul’. My father said,’ The Americans are working on it’. But I can’t wait that long."
"My mother has found a job. She collects money from Space Invader machines. She started today in response to an urgent phone call from the job agency that she is registered with. She said that the fullest machines are those in unrespectable cafes and university common rooms. I think my mother is betraying her principles. She is pandering to an obsession of weak minds."
- Adrian Mole, would-be-intellectual -

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Missed Classic: Spellbreaker - Won! And Final Rating

Written by Joe Pranevich

Spellbreaker started as a chase, then it became a hunt for macguffin cubes, now we are finally closing out through some of the most devious puzzles every created for adventure games. We’ve just about reached the end the last original “Zork” game. This has been a game that I have in turn loved and hated. It’s the longest Infocom game so far. Despite my previous misgivings, I am enjoying it more as it cruises to the finale.

Last week, I continued my quest for cubes. I found one deep in the sea, discovered when I transformed myself into a clone of a particularly annoying fish. I found a second after racing a roc to its nest, and a third after helping a green-eyed boulder play a game of bumper cars with her brown-eyed friend. This game likely makes no sense to anyone not actively playing it, but there have been a few great puzzles recently. With that cube retrieved, I can teleport point to a new cube room: Dark. That has two exits, but as usual only one that I can pass through. I descend into a strange dark cave-- let’s go find some grues!

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Curse of Enchantia - Cliffbanger

Written by Alfred n the Fettuc

Hello folks, glad to see you back here! Last week in this fantastic adventure game, we finally exited the long cave network and saw the light of day for the first time since… wow, actually it’s the first time we have an exterior location in the whole game. Enjoy the sunlight, it might not last…

We find our friend Brad, lost deep in thoughts contemplating
a statue that represents the futility of his existence

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Rome: Pathway of Power - The Woad Warrior

Written by TBD

Hector’s Journal #2: "You've heard the story before. The slave who became a general... or was it the other way around? Either way, I keep improving my station through means having nothing to do with my skills. Let's see if I can keep this going – if I do, I could even be Emperor one day!"

When last we looked in on Hector the slave owner, he'd failed multiple times at having his slave win a gladiatorial battle. So without having any better ideas, I kept trying...

Reloading after not having played the game for a few days, I'd forgotten I'd saved the game after already owning a slave so accidentally bought a different slave.

Let's take a look at my inventory...

Slaves are like Pringles - you can't stop at one.

Well, I've now got two slaves and 25 sesterces. I still owe the moneylender 60 sesterces and need some amount more than 40 to bribe my way into the Palace. So let's see if we can win a fight at the arena now. Maybe Billius and Barbarus can be the first ever tag-team.

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Missed Classic: Spellbreaker - The Chase

Written by Joe Pranevich

You’ve heard the classic story: boy meets girl, girl meets boy, boy and girl happen to be levitating rocks on a Tron-esque grid? It’s classic. If I have to say one thing about Spellbreaker, it is not afraid to have interesting and difficult puzzles. And despite the number of times that I have been stuck in this game, I’ve nearly always managed to get myself unstuck by looking at the problem in a different way. As we approach the end of the game, the overall picture is coming into focus. Connections are forming between the areas that the cubes take us, but I wish I did not have to spend the first half of the game feeling like I was playing a text-adventure version of Quantum Leap. Oh boy…

One other thing: this game is long. I’m ending this post at just over 18 hours in, making it the longest Infocom game by far and that does not include any of my time replaying from scratch last entry. The only longer game in this marathon is mainframe Zork which clocked in at roughly double where I am now. No actual Infocom release has taken me more than twelve hours to win. If they had planned to make this the “grand finale” of Zork, I think they succeeded under that metric at least.

Let’s play!

Friday, 5 April 2019

Curse of Enchantia - Cave Story Minus

Written by Alfred n the Fettuc

Last week we left our dashing protagonist, Brad, alone in a damp cave with only a paperclip to his name. Now is the time to explore a fantastic cave network with I imagine what can only be a deliciously clever suite of interconnected puzzles…

Fantastic adventures await!

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Rome: Pathway to Power - The Emperor's New Woes

Written by TBD

And so, after almost two months, we continue our playthrough of Rome: Pathway to Power.

It's been a while, so if you want to catch up you can read Reiko's Introduction (here) and first post (here).

For a quick summary, here's what happened so far.


Hector, a slave living in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, and the character we play, was sent by his master to give a letter to Fellonius the Consul.

After asking a local plumber for directions, Hector finds Fellonius.

Actual fact: The word 'plumber' originated in the Roman Empire, as the Romans used lead pipes and the Latin word for lead is plumbum.
Possibly actual fact: In more modern times, a lead pipe was also used by Professor Plum in the Conservatory.

Friday, 29 March 2019

Curse of Enchantia - 20000 Leagues Under Quality Game Design

Written by Alfred n the Fettuc

One of the greatest things about The Adventure Gamer blog is that we have the opportunity to find out exactly how good the games we didn’t play back in the day actually are. Sure, it’s always great to read more about Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis or Monkey Island, but it’s the unknown games that really get my attention. Sometimes you can find a diamond in the rough, some unknown great game. For example, it’s thanks to this game that I finally got around to play Gateway and I don’t regret one second of it, it was a great game! Sometimes, time has just forgotten excellent games that you never took the time to actually play.

And sometimes not. Sometimes games are forgotten because they are utterly horrible garbage.

Please tell me you’ve come to release me of my misery

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Gobliiins - Final Rating

By Ilmari

Gobliiins is one of those games, which definitely have flaws, but still manage to be, on the whole, charming and fun to play. It will be interesting to see whether the good parts will manage to outweigh the weaknesses or not.

There’s something immensely enjoyable in scenes like this

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Game 107: Curse of Enchantia - Introduction

Written by Alfred n’ the Fettuc

The English game development studio Core Design is first and foremost known for the Tomb Raider series, being the creator of one of the biggest franchises in video game history (and solely responsible for the rise of Eidos Interactive, their parent company, that would still be active as far as 2009, where it was purchased and absorbed by Square Enix). However their story begins much earlier than that with another cult classic: Rick Dangerous. This Indiana Jones inspired platformer was one huge hit during the Amiga golden days (and one game I really loved despite being utterly incapable of going past the fifth screen or so). Also responsible for other (less cult) classics such as Impossamole, Heimdall and Chuck Rock, the studio saw the rise of adventure games as an opportunity, and basically decided to get their shot at the genre that was printing money for Lucasarts and Sierra in the 90s.

Art by Rolf Mohr, who would become the concept
artist for the Telltale
Batman series, among other things.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Missed Classic: Spellbreaker - The Incredible Shrinking Man

Written by Joe Pranevich

Welcome back! Last week, I was able to puzzle my way past a splash-down with a hungry fish, bring a statue to life just long enough to steal something from its mouth, shrink a snake, and insult The Phantom Menace. As I have mentioned before, the game seems very random with sequences of puzzle vignettes that are connected through teleportation rather than a contiguous world. In all of this, I was able to snag my fourth cube and I am approximately 1/4th of the way through the game. I will have to pick up the pace or you will be reading about Spellbreaker forever, but it is a hard game to rush. Besides, if this is the final “original” Zork game, I want to savor the experience… or at least to give it the best possible shake.

I know I was a bit down on this game when I started, although it may have had as much to do with my own mental place while playing as anything else. I’ve taken a pause and a reset and am approaching the game with refreshed eyes. I’ve replayed the entire game up to this point and can better see the connective tissue. We’ll see how it plays out as I approach the finish.

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Gobliiins - Into the Fire

By Ilmari

Statue of Serenity - made by Joss Whedon?

Or maybe it is a statue OF him?

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Missed Classic: Spellbreaker - Romancing the Stone

Written by Joe Pranevich

A few years back, I spent some time studying Shakespeare. I’m not going to claim some amazing insight into the bard, but as I read each play I was always struck by a moment of realization when I saw what he was up to. It’s not fair to compare Infocom with one of the seminal writers of the English language, but most of their games has similarly featured a moment of realization when you discover exactly what kind of game you are playing. For Spellbreaker, I think I hit that point in the last post. Here’s my prediction: we’re going to spend the game visiting largely disconnected regions and solving puzzles. In each area or so, we’ll find a white cube which will propel the narrative forward to another area. I don’t quite see the endgame yet, but some magic will allow us to access the blocked exits in each of the cubes to solve a final puzzle which will end the series. Let’s see how off the mark I am.

Honestly, I’ve already been off the mark once in this game. I expected it to be more of a chase as we constantly nipped at the heels of the orange-smoke assailant, exploring regions and solving puzzles as a means to get closer and closer to him. That hasn’t turned out to be the case, but I suppose there is still plenty of time to catch up to him.

Last week, we ended as I snagged a second white cube off of a hermit who lived on top of an avalanche. I climbed the rockfall by pausing time at just the right moment and scaling the boulders in flight. I magically fixed his hut and was rewarded with the cube. That led me to a “Soft Room” which is where I will start today. Let’s go!

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Gobliiins: Underneath a Carrot Patch

By Ilmari

I had managed to get in wizard’s house, but then I had no idea what I was expected to achieve. Time for plan B, that is, random clicking around. What I soon found out was that the big skeleton was very ticklish and dropped a skeleton key, if I used a feather on him. I couldn’t take the key right away, because the skeleton was guarding it.

And he was mightily pissed

Monday, 11 March 2019

Rex Nebular - Final Rating

Written by TBD

It seems weird to make a big deal about your manual being written by an award winning game designer when he had nothing to do with the game itself.

So let's get to rating Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender. I'll start with some general thoughts. I was really surprised (and rather pleased) that the game didn't contain a whole heap of sex-based jokes. That type of humour can very quickly become repetitive and boring so well done.

Having said that, I enjoyed the game a lot more at the beginning. I was wondering if it was just that the humour got stale after a while, but I really think it's more because much more effort was put into the beginning of the game than the late game. More items seem to have unique and detailed descriptions earlier whereas later in the game there are a lot more generic or shorter responses.

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Missed Classic: Spellbreaker - Avalanche!

Written by Joe Pranevich

Wow! It’s been a while. How have you been? Family good? Any of you have children who grew up, went to college, started a family, and then had children of their own still waiting for a Spellbreaker update? I am sorry about that, but life has been a bit extra challenging these last few weeks and writing needed to take a back seat. The other issue is that this game isn’t really “singing” to me. It’s good and all, but I’m not really getting drawn to the story or the puzzles in the usual way for Infocom. I’ll discuss that more in a bit and in upcoming posts, but the end result is that not having enough time, plus having to force myself to play and write when I did have the time, made for a longer than usual time between posts. I’ll try to do better with the remainder of the series now that real life has settled a bit. I apologize for my tardiness.

Where we left off last time, I had just survived (somehow) an attack where all of the elders of all of the magical guilds in the world were all turned into frogs. Why was I not affected? That remains a core mystery. I chased after the assailant, but he teleported away in a cloud of orange smoke, leaving me only with a white cube left in the middle of the street and a new spell in my spellbook. When I cast that new spell on the cube, I was transported away into a dark room. That’s all we’ve done so far, so let’s see what happens next!

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Gobliiins - Collecting Reagents

By Ilmari

Happened last time: the goblins were asked to collect three magical reagents - Airain’s Mushroom, Arachnide’s Elixir and Bald Plant - which the wizard needed for curing the goblin king.

I hope his ears are waxless

In this level the obvious goal was to get past the Igor wannabe. The basic solution was pretty simple.

No, it did not involve the monster mask lying on the path