Sunday, 15 December 2019

Gobliins 2 - Making an Omelette

By Ilmari

I am happy to tell that so far Gobliins 2 has been mostly a positive experience. Lot of my positive feeling is due to an improved interface, so let’s begin with that immediately.


Saturday, 14 December 2019

What's Your Story - Mr. Sack

Answers: Mr. Sack
Introduction and Captions: TBD

And today, we have somebody who sent in their What's Your Story answers before commenting on the blog. It's time to welcome the self-described "long time fan, first time caller," Mr. Sack!

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Game 114: Gobliins 2: The Prince Buffoon (1993) - Introduction

By Ilmari


That's pretty big guarantee! Could I play the game to completion, come to the conclusion that some small detail didn't satisfy me and get a new game?

What a better way to begin a new year of gaming, but with - not one, but - two Coktel Vision games. Alfred has for a while been playing Ween: The Prophecy, and now I get to continue the saga of Gobliiins

Friday, 6 December 2019

Intermission: Med Systems Marathon – That was 1981!

by Will Moczarski


We’ve finished the second year of our Med Systems marathon now, and there are only four adventure games left. The company would exist for two more years, and in 1983 it was rechristened Screenplay. They would continue to operate under the new name until around 1986 but their output was meager and no new adventure games hit the market after 1983. In 1981, however, Med Systems were slowly reaching their peak: three of their innovative 3-D maze adventure games had been released by January 1981, they attracted new and talented programmers and entered the Atari market after having been an Apple ][ and especially TRS-80 company exclusively. Of course, they were not alone: 1981 was a seminal year for what was still being called “micro games”, as can be gathered from reading an extended feature from the August 1981 issue of 80 Microcomputing Magazine. In it, Med Systems Software were featured as one of the most important players of the time, and it’s the best source of information you can get if you’re interested in the history of the company.

I’ve compiled some of the most interesting quotes here to set the stage for the year that was 1981 – as usual, I’ve played the non-adventure games, too, and report back about the other software released by Med Systems.

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Ween : The Prophecy - Small Worms and Giant Mushrooms

Written by Alfred n the Fettuc

NB : Thanks to Laukku to have pointed out about the pixel smoothening filter Boxer was using. I removed it so the screenshots should look better this week.

Last week we had put our hands on the second grain of sand. We stopped after another cryptic intervention by the Borgol and we were standing in front of three doors. Three doors can only mean one thing in an adventure game : a MAZE! Don’t worry, though, this is probably one of the simplest mazes I’ve seen in my memory of gamer.

Behold the fabled doors of the sword, the sun and the Aston Martin.

Monday, 2 December 2019

The Year That Was... 1992

By The TAG Team




Luckily they didn’t convert this movie into an adventure game

Licensed adventure games have appeared from time to time, but this year their number was considerable. We had games based on books (Gateway and Dune, which might also be based on a movie), games based on TV series (Star Trek: 25th Anniversary, Inspector Gadget and L.A. Law Game), games based on contemporary movies (Hook and Batman Returns) and games with main characters lifted from other media (Fate of Atlantis, The Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes and Consulting Detective II, which is also an adaptation of a board game). The usual story is that licensed games are just a way to sell garbage to suckers, but despite the few stinkers in the mix, some of these licensed games were quite good in their own right.

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Missed Classic: The Institute – WON! and Final Rating

by Will Moczarski



Last time I explored the first of four dreams that make up the bulk of The Institute. I presented it as a streamlined narrative for your convenience, rather than describe all of my errancies. On my first run, for example, I examined the bronze statue from the inside as well. The bronze key let me unlock its door, and I was able to enter. I found myself in an empty chamber but looking up revealed a rope I could climb. At the top of the statue, there was a platform but the air was unreasonably thin. I suffocated and found myself back in the closet.

This is one of the core mechanics of The Institute. You need to die in every dream in order to wake up. Later ports redeemed this by enabling you to simply type “wake up” but in the original version, if you were stuck, you had to find a way to die. There are only a couple of dead ends I know of, and my first playthrough prompted me to plunge right into one of them. By not picking up the umbrella but rather suffocating inside the bronze statue with my father’s face (don’t you just love those sentences that only make a certain amount of sense in the context of game descriptions?), I didn’t have a key item for the second dream. Now you don’t get to choose: If you eat the powder for the first time, you’ll enter the first dream, and then you always enter them in the same order which means that you need to hold on to some key items like the red bottle with the powder, the cup of water to wash it down and – the umbrella. If you enter the second dream without the umbrella you can neither escape nor die but remain floating and eventually have to restart the game. Also, if you leave the red bottle or the cup of water anywhere outside the institute proper, you can’t enter another dream. I withheld all of this from you in order to provide a more readable account of my playthrough. It is in the same spirit that I will not relate all of my frantic dream-hopping in the second part but rather smooth it all over in order to provide some orientation.

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Consulting Detective Vol. II - Hint Book Review & Final Rating

Written by Joe Pranevich


The time has come to put another game into the cabinet and officially close out 1992! We played a staggering 38 adventure games this year. I’ll leave the year-end commentary to Ilmari, but we are moving on quickly to 1993 which somehow has even more games. It’s an exciting era in video game history and I am thrilled that we are able to document so much of it.

Before we move onto the final rating, I have one last piece of business: the “unauthorized strategy guide” for this game. I purchased it while I was stuck on the second case but did not end up using it. Long time readers may know that I have an interest in old strategy guides and this one was quite a find! Not only is it surprisingly detailed, it was also written by one of the industry’s great game designers: Bruce C. Shelley. We haven’t seen Shelley in our corner of the gaming world (in fact, he has only one adventure game credit to his name, a 1993 children’s adventure which didn’t make the cut), but he was a former Avalon Hill nut who became Sid Meyer’s “assistant” and later co-designer on a number of games. Civilization, Railroad Tycoon, Covert Action, Age of Empires, and their spin-offs and sequels would not be the way that they are today without Shelley’s influence. That makes this hint book one of the best pedigreed in the industry. Let’s get to it!

Sunday, 24 November 2019

Ween : The Prophecy - Dragons and Cherries

Written by Alfred n the Fettuc

Once again, I apologize to our fellow readers for the very (very) long time between my posts and the short lengths of my gaming sessions but I was drowning in a huge quantity of work these last months. Hopefully, it should get better soon and I should be able to play and write more about adventure games… fingers crossed and thank you for your patience.

Last post I was saying that if this game managed to keep its momentum, it could be a very good one. Unfortunately, the next portion of the game was not as good as its introduction. The second grain of sand was quite easy to obtain, but confronted me to a tedious boss battle that took me way too much time to beat.

But first things first. Last time I managed to put my greedy hands on the first grain of sand (out of three) needed to complete my quest. Now it was time to confront the dragon in order to obtain the second one. Right after receiving OHKRAM’s congratulations on the first part of my quest, I find myself in front of a subterranean lake.

With that just beneath his house and with a little bit of money, OHKRAM could easily be a chiroptera-shaped vigilante.

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Missed Classic 77: The Institute (1981) – Introduction

by Will Moczarski



The Institute is the first game in my Med Systems marathon that I will actually replay as I’ve played (and solved) it before. It has been decades, however, and my memories of the game are pretty unreliable. Also, I only know the later port for the Commodore 64 which features nice graphics – I have never played the original TRS-80 version. What I remember most distinctly about this game is that it feels like a compilation because you have to solve puzzles in four or five different dreams in order to bring the background story to a close (i.e., escape from a mental health facility). I also remember that I really liked this game, maybe I even finished it two or three times just for the sake of it.

Because The Institute used to be very renowned, much has been written about it. I will thus unusually start with an introduction of contemporary and retrospective quotes as a framework to set the stage for this unusual game.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Consulting Detective Vol. II - Sleuth Solves Spy Special! Satisfactory Send-off to Second Saga (Won!)

Written by Joe Pranevich



Welcome back to the final gameplay installment in Consulting Detective Vol II! I know this one has dragged on a bit, especially as we have had some slowdowns in Ween as well, but we arrived at the finish line with the best case of the set. I am getting ahead of myself, but suffice it to say that I’m ending this one with higher spirits than when I started.

Last week, I ended with a bold prediction: Lord Ragland was the killer! I didn’t know his motive, but I decided that it had to be him based entirely on his smug face and choice in cigarettes. I mean, look at him! Don’t you just want to punch him in the face? Maybe I am a bit overboard, but we’ll see whether my investigations lead to the same conclusion or make me look like an idiot.

Before we begin, let's recap the key points:
Once upon a time, about two weeks ago, a “munitions magnate” named Courtney Allen was shot in the alleyway outside his office. It appeared to be a robbery, but while the thief lifted his gold watch, he (or she) left his wedding ring. Also missing were files marked “SP10” taken from Allen’s briefcase. Holmes and Watson (with some help from me) traced Allen’s day based on the planner left in his briefcase. We discovered an appointment with Lord Ragland in the morning, Captain Egan from the British Navy in the evening, and a mysterious evening rendezvous at a Spanish restaurant with someone named “A.M.” Allen believed that foreign powers were trying to spy on his “Special Project 10” and he may have feared for his safety; he even went to Lord Ragland for help. We eventually learned that the killer waited for Allen in the alley while smoking a rare brand of “Burns & Hills” cigarettes. These are the same smokes that Lord Ragland smoked. He must be the killer!
In addition to the above, there were two other side-stories that may connect yet. The first is Richard Camp, a member of Special Project #10 that may have been secreting out documents to the French embassy. Ragland investigated and found him to be innocent, but if he’s the killer then he likely cannot be trusted. Additionally, we learned that Allen was having an affair with one (or more!) women at the time of his death. Could that connect somehow? I do not know, but thus far I have not been digging into his personal life.

With no motive for Ragland to be the killer, I’m going to start today by trying to work out who he was working with. Let’s see if my theory is correct!

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Missed Classic: Saigon: The Final Days – WON! and Final Rating

by Will Moczarski



Last time I was severely stuck. Not even the first room in Asylum had given me such a headache. I was unable to venture past the Viet Cong gun nest and unable to open the dead soldier’s snap pocket on the starting screen. I must have tried almost everything – I even tried to do something in the one round before the hut is blown to pieces in case you need to manipulate the initial timed explosion (it occurs after one move no matter what you do) somehow. At least, I thought, my introduction was as spoiler-free as possible. All of that will change now – it’s time to leave Saigon.

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Consulting Detective Vol. II - Murdered Mechanic Made Military Mighty

Written by Joe Pranevich


Two cases down and one to go! Thus far in Consulting Detective Vol. II, we’ve solved a pair of murders and it appears that we are going three-for-three. Admittedly, the first case was murder-with-theft and the second was murder-as-a-cover-up, but both involved murder. Some commenters have suggested that this is the best case of the bunch and so I am looking forward to it. The last case wasn’t the best, but this one could easily sweep me off my feet and we’ll enter the PISSED rating with the wind at our backs. I can dream, right?

This case starts with a nice video introduction. Richard Allen arrives at Baker St. having been let in by the housekeeper. He apologizes for the intrusion but wants to discuss the murder of his brother, Courtney Allen. Holmes read about the case a few weeks prior in the Times and knows all about it. Courtney was the President of the Grant Arms Company and was shot to death on March 9 (almost two weeks ago) outside his office. Scotland Yard believes that he was just robbed, but Richard believes otherwise and needs Holmes’s help. This sounds like a good start!

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Missed Classic 76: Saigon: The Final Days (1981) – Introduction

by Will Moczarski



The fourth and final game by Jyym and Robyn Pearson that was – albeit only sometimes – marketed as an “OtherVenture” by Adventure International, is Saigon: The Final Days. It was first released for the TRS-80 in 1981 and ported to the TRS-80 CoCo as well as the Atari 400 one year later. As usual, there are some problems to come up with precise dates: while the CoCo version was programmed in 1982, it was apparently released in 1983. Also, somewhat authoritative sources like MobyGames don’t list an Apple ][ release but clearly there existed a version for Jobs & Wozniak’s miracle machine as well. As usual, we’ll get to that later in my WON post.

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Thursday, 31 October 2019

Kickstarter Special - Summer Daze At Hero-U & Interview with Corey Cole

By the TAG Team


It’s no secret that here at “The Adventure Gamer”, we have a soft spot for the Quest for Glory series and the works of Corey and Lori Cole. Three of their games are on our Top Ten! Although we are a retro gaming establishment, we reviewed Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption last year and have received a ton of positive feedback about the decision. That review (and the accompanying interview) are among the most popular posts on the site. We can only assume that you, like us, are fans!

We have been exceptionally selective in terms of what recent projects we feature, but we’d like to direct you to a kickstarter by Corey and Lori Cole’s Transolar Games: Summer Daze at Hero-U. This game is a prequel to the previous Hero-U title and explores a shift towards more narrative storytelling by integrating visual novel elements. It looks like it’s off to a good start. Summer Daze lets you play as either the mischievous female rogue or a studious and introspective male wizard with his meerbat familiar.

The campaign's funding goal is $99,999 because as Corey points out, “we'd hate to come up $1 short.” At the moment, they are just over 70% of the way to their goal with less than a week to go. We’re really love to see this game get funded and hope you will check it out if you are a fan of the series.

As an added bonus, Corey Cole has agreed to speak with us and answer some lingering questions that your humble admins had about the development of his games. Even if you aren’t into his kickstarter, I encourage you to scroll down!

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Consulting Detective Vol. II - Failure! Fiendish Forger Found a Friend to Flame the Folio

Written by Joe Pranevich



I failed at this case. If you follow our blog to read about masterful play and to see an expert gamer moving from clue to clue with purpose and conviction, you have come to the wrong place. As you will read, I tripped up a number of times for various reasons which ultimately led to having to request help. Our case also appears to have a few logic errors, making my slog all the more difficult. It is far from a grand slam, but I hope my experience makes interesting reading. The cases in this game has not quite been up to the level of its predecessor.

That said, I need to give credit where due and this episode has two of the most memorable scenes from the series so far, right up there with the scene in the first game where someone tried to bring a dead cat back to life. The acting and writing are frequently boring, but it’s a lot of fun when a scene goes in an unexpected direction. That does not make up for the other flaws, but I am delighted every time the game steps out of its comfort zone.

Sunday, 27 October 2019

Ween : The Prophecy - Vampires and Strawberries

Written by Alfred n the Fettuc

Note to my fellow adventure gamers : Due to a monstrous amount of work in my real life, I’m very late on my writing. So sorry about the long delay and the short post. I’ll be more efficient in the weeks to come. Cheers. Alfred

So far so good! After what we’ll call the “Curse of Enchantia incident”, I was thinking my days as an adventure gamer were coming to an end and that I would be unable to enjoy another game one day that wasn’t done by Sierra or Lucasarts (and especially not one coming from Coktel Vision), but it seems I was wrong. So far, Ween has been a pleasure to play, even if it’s definitely a weird game. I’m not sure how long it will keep this up because all the reviews I’ve seen weren’t particularly positive but I’ll cross my fingers. I don’t know if the game will be very long though, because in only 1 hour of playtime, I was already able to snatch the first grain of sand I needed (over 3).



Thursday, 24 October 2019

Missed Classic 75: Earthquake – San Francisco 1906 (1981) – Introduction

by Will Moczarski



The 1906 San Francisco earthquake hit the famous Northern Californian town 113 years ago on April 18 with a magnitude of nearly 8. Almost 3000 people died in the event and over 80 percent of the city were destroyed. It remains one of the biggest natural disasters in California’s history to this day. This particular historic event marks the setting of Jyym Pearson’s third adventure game for Adventure International which also served as the fourth and final OtherVenture for the company. It also marks a significant if temporary departure from the gothic horror and science-fiction settings of Pearson’s previous two games – a trend he followed with Saigon: The Final Days the same year in a joint effort with his wife Robyn.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Missed Classic: Escape from Traam – WON! and Final Rating

by Will Moczarski



Last time we left off after about an hour of gameplay, with a reasonably small gameworld and some items we haven’t found a use for. We deciphered an alien language and attempted to explore a dark cave but didn’t really get anywhere plot-wise. So far, this was an enjoyable game – was it meant to remain this way?

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Missed Classic 74: Escape from Traam (1981) – Introduction

by Will Moczarski


Special thanks to the Museum of Computer Adventure Game History! (mocagh.org)

It’s time for the third OtherVenture and our second Jyym Pearson game Escape from Traam. This one has a 1980 copyright date and it may possibly be the earlier game of the two. It is usually treated as Pearson’s sophomore effort in text adventures but the sci-fi setting of his first game Zossed in Space (1980) may hint at a possible continuity between the two. However, I don’t have proof for this other than the copyright date of the TRS-80 version (Curse of Crowley Manor had a 1981 stamp), so I’ll just relegate this thought to the realm of speculation.

Monday, 7 October 2019

Consulting Detective Vol. II - Pair of Pretty Paintings Pilfered, Perhaps Pawned

Written by Joe Pranevich


After a birthday detour back into Infocom-land, I’m back to playing Consulting Detective. Last time around, I solved the first of three cases by finding a lion-murdering thief with a penchant for poisoning his witnesses. That case was pretty fun but not perfect. It did take me a bit to get back into the swing of things this series and I could have solved it faster if I had done a better job with the newspaper and remembering to use my “Regulars”. I’m going to jump into this second case more prepared and see if I do any better.

This time out, we are solving the case of the “pilfered paintings” and the case starts with a proper introduction video. Sir Simpson Witcomb, a well-dressed older gentleman, seeks Holmes’s help to recover two “De Kuyper” paintings taken from the National Gallery. Six months ago, two previously unknown paintings by the artist were discovered and auctioned at Armitage’s Gallery. De Kuyper, we are told, was a student of Reubens, a Flemish master and someone even I have heard of. Prior to this auction, only six De Kuyper paintings were known to exist: four in the Louvre in Paris, one in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and one by a private collector, Lord Smedley, in London. Witcomb worked with his head curator, Brady Norris, to acquire the two newly discovered works and add them to the National Gallery’s collection. They were able to snag them for a mere £125,000, far less than expected.

With the National Gallery in London now home to one-fourth of the known De Kuyper paintings, Witcomb set his sights on the first ever expedition of all eight known works. That would have opened tomorrow, if not for the theft of two of the paintings. As such, all of the other works are also in London ready to be moved to the Gallery: the Louvre’s four are stored in the French Embassy, the Rijksmuseum’s one is in a separate National Gallery storeroom, and Smedley’s is at his townhouse. With that helpful information, we are off to solve this case!

Friday, 4 October 2019

Game 113: Ween : The Prophecy (1993)

[Admin note: Since there's still so much left of the last game of 1992, Consulting Detective 2, we've decided to already start playing the first game of 1993. Enjoy!]

Written by Alfred n’ the Fettuc

So here we are, the first game on our list for 1993, and another French adventure game made by Coktel Vision to boot! Just to remind a few of our beloved readers out there, The Adventure Gamer website has had a tumultuous relationship with French adventure games in the past. With a few exceptions (the most notable one being K.G.B which, despite being a French game, sits proudly in our Top rated games list) a lot of the games originating from my country were given low, or even abysmal, PISSED ratings. Will Ween : The Prophecy (or simply The Prophecy as it’s known in the US) be one of the games that redeem French adventure gaming or will it add another stone in the bucket? I asked myself the same question with Bargon Attack a while ago and… well it didn’t turn out very well.


Very nice cover, though, courtesy of Thierry Segur, French comic book and storyboard artist.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Missed Classic: Curse of Crowley Manor – WON! and Final Rating

by Will Moczarski





This is an astonishing game. I know that it might seem as if I was easily satisfied by a few extra descriptions in a text adventure but for a game released in 1981 it does a lot of things right. So far, it’s not very challenging, and the story may be conventional but it’s still involving. Last time I was stuck with a limited gameworld and the brown growth who’d jump headfirst into the pantry and devour everything there, including myself. This time I remembered the words of wisdom from the fragmentary manual I had consulted before starting the game. It’s very sparse and does not provide a lot of backstory, however, it advises you to LOOK everywhere and also rely on your other senses. You can LISTEN and SMELL, too, so I tried to LOOK, SMELL and LISTEN in every room one more time and happened upon the solution rather quickly.

Next to the pantry there’s an exquisite dining room with a large oak table I can investigate. If I do that, I find some food there. Maybe it’s spoiled and will provide a trap for the hungry brown growth is what I think. That is not the case but still dropping the growth will solve the puzzle, prompting it to devour the food and “shoot” under the china cabinet, causing it to fall with a crash. Upon examination I find a letter opener and a hand axe. I know right away what both items are for and decide to backtrack to the rosewood chest to unfasten the screws there. Inside I find a golden crucifix and an old note with only a number on it: 5271. I take a new note and go back to the plywood wall. With the crucifix and the holy water in my hands, I almost expect to find a roast chicken behind it. It’s not all fun and games, however, as the parser doesn’t understand “hack” or “break”, only “chop”. After three or four useless turns there’s a hole in the wall and I can enter. Supposedly. Again, going N or GO HOLE does not work, only “CLIMB HOLE”.

The next part of the manor is like a hidden underground area. It’s a nice touch that I am delving deeper into the interiors of the building as I progress; it’s a sequence of rooms with an unfinished air about them, and a lot of secret passages. Looking and listening excessively also thickens the plot substantially. In a darkened room strewn with scientific instruments I encounter the demon yet again, his tremendous voice booms “You have not the power to face me yet be warned...” (sic!) The demon is not a fan of punctuation. Also, why are old adventure game voices always booming? Looking again I see that everything is filthy and smashed. Among the rubble, there is an ancient book lying open on a table. I can only make out one sentence: “Gafala alone can help.” Who is Gafala? Am I supposed to know? West of here, there is a musty room. On the only door there is an ancient numeral lock. This is pretty easy if you have discovered the old note (as I have): just dial 5271 and be done with it. I arrive at a damp brick walled room where there is a horrible stench. Smelling (or looking) results in my being slammed against a wall by a powerful force. If I listen (or look) once more, I am thrown flat on the floor, and a voice bellows “Soon youll be mine” (sic!). Yours? Er…eek?

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Ringworld - Final Rating

Written by Reiko

As with some other games based on science fiction novels, I think we're going to find that Ringworld is an interesting but flawed attempt to bring the deep story of a novel into an interactive adventure game. In some ways, Ringworld is a very traditional adventure game in a style that feels familiar to players who are used to Sierra games. In other ways, it goes off in a unique direction. Let's break that down and see how it turns out.


Puzzles and Solvability

Generally, Ringworld is very solvable, perhaps too solvable. Most of its puzzles are very straightforward once you have all the pieces. Grab a ladder and place it where you need to climb up. Collect something sharp to cut through a rope. Pick up everything that isn't nailed down.

Is there any visible reason to need to click on every single book on the shelf just to find the one with the combination?

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Infocom Marathon: Selling the House that Zork Built

Written by Joe Pranevich


On June 13, 1986, Infocom ended, but our story does not. That is the day that Activision officially acquired Infocom. The team had fun with the event, even hosting a mock (Jewish!) wedding for Activision CEO Jim Levy and Infocom CEO Joel Berez. This was 18 years before same-sex marriage was legal in Massachusetts, otherwise they might have been in trouble! Infocom had made tremendous games, but they were no longer the successful upstart they once were. Depending on your point of view, Activision’s purchase either kept the adventure ball rolling for a few more years or ensured its eventual downfall.

Rather than doing a regular check-in post, I hope you will humor me as we look at Infocom’s situation both immediately before and after the purchase. This analysis will be based on sales data and other information that has leaked out in the three decades since Infocom was a running concern. There will be charts! We’ll also briefly recap 1985 and the beginning of 1986 games before looking towards the future. What happens to our Infocom marathon once Infocom is no longer its own company? Does this mean I need to play Activision’s Murder on the Mississippi (1985) and Portal (1986)? No, but there are still more games in front of us than behind.

If you were expecting a Consulting Detective post today, I am sorry to disappoint. We will continue our exploration of the Pilfered Paintings shortly, but for my birthday I gave myself permission to make charts instead. What could be a better birthday present? I hope you enjoy this brief return to our Infocom Marathon which I hope to resume properly in a few weeks.

As the strange newlyweds looked each other in the eye on that fateful June morning, I like to think that Joel had just two words that he was dying to say to his new beau, two words that would tell his new partner exactly what he meant to him. In my head, that meeting could only have ended one way, “Hello… sailor.”

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Missed Classic 73: Curse of Crowley Manor (1981) – Introduction

by Will Moczarski




Who was Jyym Pearson?

The sixth adventure game in our Med Systems marathon is the last one released in 1981, and it’s a rather famous one. The Institute is also the first game I’ve played before (albeit in the later port for the Commodore 64), and it picks up on the ‘mental illness’ theme we’ve already encountered in Deathmaze 5000, Labyrinth and, especially, Asylum. Jyym Pearson was the third freelance programmer to be published by Med Systems following Arti Haroutunian (Microworld) and Simon Smith (Knossos). Med Systems founder William Denman appears to have put some thought into his company’s portfolio, as Microworld is a nice companion piece to his own The Human Adventure, while Smith’s Knossos picks up on the theme established in Labyrinth, in which the player has to vanquish a mythical minotaur. The Institute is sort of a companion piece to Asylum, so much so that the former seems like a text-only version of the latter at first sight. However, Jyym Pearson was already an established author of text adventures when Med Systems first published one of his games, and he continued to make a name for himself through this fruitful collaboration. As this is as good a place as any to go back and play the four text adventure games that Pearson wrote before teaming up with Med Systems in 1981, I will hereby start a short sub-marathon of the four games that came before The Institute.

It has to be noted that Jyym often didn’t work alone. His wife Robyn Pearson contributed to many of his adventure games and also received some credit for it. Like Alexa Adams, she is not as famous as her male counterpart which likely says a lot about the rules of early video game publicity, maybe even about our society in general. As it’s very difficult to research who did what exactly, I will try to be as accurate as possible in this regard but please bear in mind that I might underestimate the extent of Robyn’s work every once in a while which is, needless to say, completely unintentional.

Apart from his illustrious body of work, Jyym Pearson is a rather elusive personality. He wrote the odd editorial piece for early 1980’s computer magazines but it is rather difficult to find out more about his biography. Sadly, he succumbed to cancer in 1994 so it won’t be possible to conduct an interview with him, and moreover, Robyn Pearson appears to be such an widespread name that it proved impossible to find out what Jyym’s widow might be up to these days. All that I can gather is that Jyym apparently was an avid computer collector and a loving family father, but other than that we’ll have to let him speak through his works.

Jyym Pearson first entered the scene in 1980 with a text-based space simulation game called Zossed in Space which had a small but loyal fanbase. In 1981, he wrote his first text adventure (The) Curse of Crowley Manor which was highly innovative being an early detective game steeped in occultist lore. It was released as one of Adventure International’s OtherVentures – a gig that Jyym was subsequently subscribed to, it seems. His next game, Escape from Traam, was also released – as OtherVenture #3 – in 1981, and Earthquake San Francisco 1906 followed the same year, labelled as #4. The Pearsons’ final game for Adventure Internationale, Saigon: The Final Days, was also released in 1981 and became famous for immersing the player in a relatively contemporary story: the retreat of the Americans from Vietnam in 1975. The Pearsons’ other four adventure games were published by Med Systems over the following years, starting with The Institute in 1981. They appear to have been very creative and prolific writers, never adhering to the most conventional adventure game tropes but always eager to stretch the limits of the still-juvenile form.

As an homage to these highly interesting writer personalities, I shall blog through the four 1981 Pearson games before continuing the actual Med Systems marathon with The Institute. I had considered doing all of the OtherVentures in the process but the first one is just a port of the Crowther & Woods Adventure called Classic Adventure, and Lance Micklus’s 1979 classic Dog Star Adventure was only labelled as an OtherVenture in a later re-release. I hope that you will enjoy this little detour but I’m very optimistic that the good reputation of these games is highly justified and that the Pearsons’s work should have a place on this blog dedicated to adventure game history.


Sunday, 22 September 2019

Ringworld - Won!

Written by Reiko

Quinn’s Journal #4: "Telepath helmets are apparently a bad idea. Good thing I had that neural wave blocker we found. All’s well that ends well, except we still haven’t found Louis Wu and Chmeee. But the Patriarch is neutralized and that’s a good day’s work. I just had to nearly die to do it."

I guess the Kzin are a big deal around here.

Friday, 20 September 2019

Consulting Detective Vol. II - The Lions, the Pick, and the Redhead

Written by Joe Pranevich



In the words of the world’s greatest detective, “Wowsers!” We have a case with two dead actual lions and one dead guy named “Lions”. It may be contrived, but thus far it’s been a challenging case even if I don’t see how all of the clues fit together. Let’s start this week with a recap before I interview a few more people.

Our dramatis personae:
  • Lenny and Bruce, two circus lions, now deceased. They were captured in Africa by the lion tamer Barry O’Neill. They had only just arrived in London after a European tour-- most recently in Germany-- before they were killed and their wagon (and bodies) ditched in Hyde Park. They were not tame and permitted only Barry and his wife to come near them. Exactly how they ended up in Hyde Park or why they were taken there is unclear, but Holmes found empty pouches near where they had been killed. What was in the pouches? We have no idea.
  • Barry O’Neill was their lion tamer. He was injured or assaulted on the docks while unloading circus equipment prior to the theft and murder of his lions. Was he attacked just to allow someone access to the lions? Were the lions attacked because someone wanted to get even with Barry? I have no idea yet.
  • Thomas O’Neill was the lion tamer’s brother, also last seen in Germany, although it is unknown whether he and Barry met during the tour. Thomas had once loaned Barry money and continues to hold this over his brother.
  • Steven Lions was a first officer for the Aberdeen shipping company. He was last seen having a night on the town with drink and prostitutes, before falling dead in the street. Lions may have moonlit as a smuggler, using his position to move illicit goods in a secretive way. According to his landlady, he expected come into a large amount of money soon. His cause of death was a rare poison. Other than his companions of ill repute, he was last seen with Wally Sharp and a mysterious red-headed man. 
  • The Redhead may be important and is my best suspect for poisoning Steven Lions, but his identity is a mystery. 
That’s enough of a refresher. We also spoke to a number of others, including the pair of prostitutes that Mr. Lions was looking forward to hanging out with, but I believe the above are the key people to watch out for. It’s time for the thrilling conclusion to “The Two Three Lions”!

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Missed Classic: Microworld – WON! and Final Rating

by Will Moczarski

Med Systems Marathon Overview:
(a) 1980 Summary
(b) Reality Ends (1980)
(c) Rat’s Revenge / Deathmaze 5000 (1980)
(d) Labyrinth (1980)
(e) Asylum (1981)


Second Time’s the Charm

My actual playthrough of Microworld takes me about 7 hours and a fair amount of head-scratching. I’ll start from the beginning in this post as I haven’t covered much ground in the first hour of gameplay. Apologies for any repetitions there might be in the first two or three paragraphs.

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Ringworld - Two Boxes and a Repurposed Probe

Written by Reiko

Quinn’s Journal #3: "We’re making good progress on collecting these stasis boxes. Hindmost keeps demanding answers we don’t have or don’t want to give. We’d do better if he’d just leave us alone to do what he sent us here for. At least Seeker hasn’t been putting himself in danger so much."

Seeker and Quinn get macho.

Friday, 13 September 2019

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Consulting Detective Vol. II - Between the Lions

Written by Joe Pranevich



Welcome back! I hope you got your score guesses in because it is time to dive into the first case. Just as in the previous game, we have three cases to choose from; while we can play them in any order, I’m going to take them sequentially as I expect the authors intended. While I have nothing to show for it yet, I have reached out to some of the team responsible for this game to answer some lingering questions that I have, and possibly even to get an interview. We’ll be playing for roughly seven more weeks and I’d like to try to see what we can learn before the end. We shall see!

The first case is “The Two Lions”. The original tabletop game featured this as the third case, called “The Lionized Lions”, but beyond the similar title I have not looked to see if there are any differences as I am avoiding spoilers. Unlike many of the previous cases, there is only a cursory introductory movie: just a single still image of a note on our door, telling us that something will interest us in the day’s Times. Who put the note on our door? What might we find to be of interest? How will we get paid for a case of “ding dong dash”? I guess that is what we need to discover.

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Reader's Choice 1992

Only two games to go before the end of 1992! We continue with the tradition of letting our readers choose, what is the best game of the year.


Choose wisely (and no, we are not saying what you should choose)

Saturday, 31 August 2019

Game 112: Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective Vol. II - Introduction (1992)

Written by Joe Pranevich



The blurb on the back of the box tells us, "What they said about Sherlock I, you'll say about Sherlock II." I am fairly certain that there have never been truer words in advertising because that is exactly how I feel opening up Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective Vol. II. It’s cliche to say that everything old is new again, but it seems especially true in this case as we are introduced to three new cases for Mr. Holmes and his trusty companions to solve, all taken from the original tabletop game.

In the history of video games, this seems fairly rare. Most sequels-- but certainly not all-- adjust something in the follow ups. The Ultima games were famous for never re-using an engine in their main numbered games. In the adventure space, Sierra and LucasArts reused their engines, but rarely had sequels that used exactly the same engine. Even when they did, they made significant changes in the gameplay. (I’m tempted to say that King’s Quest II may be an exception.) The early Wizardry sequels were more like expansion packs than new games and maybe that is the right way to think about this one. It is “Volume II” rather than “II”, after all. Is that such a bad thing? We’ll just have to see.

Monday, 26 August 2019

Inca - Final Rating

By Ilmari

Sometimes we beat games, sometimes games beat us. Inca definitely did that for me. At first it forced me to lose my dignity and rely on cheat codes to get even started. Then, after this irreparable error of dishonest gaming, I didn’t even manage to get to the end of it.


Look at it gloat!
I could undoubtedly use my reviewer powers and punish Inca with bad scores, but I want to leave all enmity behind and give a fair rating.

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Ringworld - Five Aliens and a Stasis Box

Written by Reiko

Quinn’s Journal #2: "I've managed to escape with Chmeee's son in the prototype ship, but now the Puppeteers want us to go retrieve some ancient technology in stasis boxes on Ringworld. How are we ever going to catch up with the Destroyer? These boxes are not exactly easy to get to, either. Seeker is confident as always, but he's taking the worst of the danger during these retrieval missions."


Landing at Ringworld's spaceport

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Inca - Demolished

By Ilmari


Fifteen seconds later all the space conquistadors passed out from a lack of oxygen

Any theories how this contraption flies?


In modern terms: romance gives you more energy than booze

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Ringworld - Three Stuns and Five Wires

Written by Reiko

Quinn’s Journal #1: "What a strange business this is. First, my old friend Louis Wu disappeared, and managed to see it coming soon enough to alert me, and then I found that his contact Chmeee had also disappeared under unusual circumstances. I had very little time to wonder about this, though, because as soon as I made contact with Chmeee's son, we were attacked and had to make a run for it."

Quinn's main companion introduces himself.

Monday, 12 August 2019

Nippon Safes Inc. - Final rating

Written by Torch


What were my expectations when I started playing this? Well, maybe more safes... Honestly, my familiarity with the game only goes as far as remembering to have seen some screenshots in a magazine some time in 1992. I guess it was a review, but I can’t recall what the reviewer thought about it. The reason I remembered it is probably due to the colorful and cartoony graphics, that must’ve struck a note with me at the time.

Since then I’ve not heard anything about it, with adventure game classics like the Sierra Quest-series or anything made by LucasArts claiming all the spotlight, so I wasn’t sure if it wasn’t actually an adventure game, or if it just wasn’t very good. It certainly didn’t propel the creators Dynabyte to stardom. They made only two more games, one of them, Big Red Adventure seems to be a sequel to Nippon. I’d never even heard of that game before I researched this, but that could be me.

Famous or not, the game has both entertained me and frustrated me, so as I ponder how to go about evaluating it against the mighty PISSED, I’m still not sure how it will all play out in the end. But let’s start with the first category, and see how it goes

Friday, 9 August 2019

Inca - Devastated

By Ilmari


I wonder how a Shoot’Em’Up Addict could retain the interest of readers through couple of posts? “And then another orc came running from the left. And I shot it! Another one followed it. I shot that one, too! And yet another, blast, good riddance to orc number 45! I was almost ready to move to the next level, when I left my guard down and a stray bullet hit me. I tried loading, but then I remembered I had forgotten the whole saving business. Next thing you know, I had changed into my skeet gear and imagined I was shooting the game disks into small pieces.”

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Game 111: Ringworld: Revenge of the Patriarch (1992) - Introduction

Written by Reiko

The last game I played through for the blog was Dune (let’s pretend Rome never happened), which was more or less based on the famous science fiction novel, and before that was Gateway. Up next, I have the opportunity to present another game based on a famous science fiction novel: Ringworld, by Larry Niven. I’m seeing a theme here.

Front cover of the original release.