Tuesday 28 December 2021

Missed Classic 104: La Secte Noire (1990)

 By Ilmari

It's time for another of our traditions: the annual end of the year game! This time, it will be a tale of horror - but will it be a horror to play? Only time will tell!

Our readers know their adventure games and their relative merits and faults. Indeed, usually their predictions on what a game will score is spot-on. In the rare cases they miss the mark completely, we are usually covering some not-so-well-known game, which only the most hard core adventurist have even heard of, let alone tried. One of these games was Lankhor’s Maupiti Island, which most people thought would land in 30s, but managed to get a middling 41 PISSED rating.

Of all the games I’ve played for this blog, Maupiti Island has definitely been one I’ve been most conflicted about. It had a complex story that it was intriguing to unravel, but it had enough problems, like impossible puzzles, that made actually playing the game a slog. Despite the faults, the game made an impression on me, and I was waiting to get to play the next and last Lankhor game on our official list, Black Sect.

Doing some preliminary research, I noticed that Black Sect was a retelling of Lankhor’s earlier game, La Secte Noire, which I decided to play as this year's final game. La Secte Noire also had a sequel, La Crypte des Maudits, which I'll probably play as a Missed Classic at some point before tackling Black Sect itself. I also noticed that we hadn’t really discussed Lankhor itself, when reviewing its games. This is a perfect opportunity to delve a little bit more to the history of this game developer.

Saturday 25 December 2021

Missed Classic 103: Paranoia (1987)

Written by Joe Pranevich

Merry Christmas! I have a confession to make. When I set out to play a Christmas adventure game for the first time back in 2014, I had a game in mind. I vaguely remembered it, but I knew that it was a text adventure that I first played sometime in the mid-90s. I was just learning Linux and had installed Slackware, probably around 1994 or 1995. Included with the distribution was a handful of text-based games: NetTrek, Hunt the Wumpus, Dungeon (mainframe Zork), and others. While I searched around for another text adventure, I found a surprise: a Christmas spoof, very dystopian, where you were challenged to combat the consumerism of the holiday. It also involved dying a lot and being reincarnated as your clone. This game was Paranoia, based on the table-top game of the same name, but I was completely unaware of it as anything other than this amazing experience hidden among the Linux arcana. 

A few years ago, I tracked this game down again based on my half-remembered experiences. Fortunately, “Christmas” and “dying clones” don’t go together very often! I expected it to be ancient in computer terms, as vintage at least as the mainframe ports that made up most of the games on the system. Surprisingly, most online sources placed the game as having been written in 1993, and my own research discovered no earlier copies. Eventually, TAG made it far enough in our timeline for me to look at the game for real. Like so many things I thought I knew about this game, that date was wrong.

We’ve told some great stories here and our Christmas games make for surprisingly good ones, but this is the first case I’ve ever seen where the game’s writer was unaware of the game’s release or enduring popularity… until I called him thirty-five years after the last time he thought about it. More after the jump.

Thursday 23 December 2021

An American Tail - Get Shorty

By Torch

At this point I’ve elected not to watch the movie(s) before playing the game. Though it would probably give me a bunch of context, it might also give away plot points or possibly puzzles. Also, I’d like to see if the game is able to stand on its own feet with regards to storytelling, or if it will just assume that I already know what’s going on.

But let’s take it from the start. As you may recall from the intro post, I’m playing poor little mouse Fievel Mousekewitz, who just migrated from his home in Russia to New York, and got separated from his family along the way.

We start off at the dock in New York, where the only thing I can interact with is a somewhat suspicious looking rat, Fievel himself and a couple of exits. One thing of note: I can’t move Fievel around on a screen. He just stands firmly in one spot until I click an exit, after which he does a short walking animation.
Hey! Matching outfits!

Monday 20 December 2021

Missed Classic: Stationfall - When Food Dispensers Attack

Written by Joe Pranevich

Welcome back! It’s December already and I hope you are getting ready for your holiday cheer. When we last left Stationfall, our intrepid hero had just arrived at Space Station Gamma Delta Gamma for a mission of great importance: pick up a shipment of bureaucratic forms and return them to our ship, the SPS Duffy. Unfortunately, something feels wrong as soon as we arrive. There is no greeting party and as we explored, we discovered the whole station seemingly abandoned. Eventually we made our way to a scientific module where we discovered a holding tank with a large hole in it. What evil is prowling the corridors? Where is the crew? And how will we escape the deserted station with no fuel? We have quite a mystery on our hands!

The beats so far between Planetfall and Stationfall are eerily familiar. Perhaps, too familiar? In that first game, an emergency forced us to escape to an unknown planet only to find it completely devoid of life. We explored empty area after area to gradually unlock the clues behind what had happened to the world’s population and to find a way home. In Planetfall, the emptiness was part of the point; the lonely tone could only have been created by having a wide (but population-less) area to explore. Stationfall has so far copied both of those beats exactly, landing us in yet another vast empty area that we have to map and gradually sort out to find out where everyone went and how to get home. Whether we decide that this game is brilliant or derivative will ultimately come down to how well the new game justifies the return to the same old beats. Planetfall was amazing, but I didn’t want to play it twice. 

Given all the mapping and exploring to do, this week’s post is pretty much just that: mapping and exploring. There’s a lot of ground to cover, but no real way to tell this game in a linear way. You get to explore it the way I am, with a lot of open questions that will (I hope!) coalesce into a puzzle-solving frenzy over upcoming weeks. This will likely be our last Stationfall post this year, but we will resume full force in January.

Wednesday 8 December 2021

Missed Classic: The Count (in Japanese)

 Written by Morpheus Kitami

There haven't been a lot of Japanese games on TAG. There haven't been any, actually. This is not necessarily due to a lack of them translated into English, but the only big ones released in English by '93 are Murder Club and L-Zone. Why Trickster never covered Murder Club isn't a mystery, it wasn't on Wikipedia's list of graphic adventure games when he started. I don't know why L-Zone got missed in '92 or '93.

Thrilling gameplay in Mystery House

First, a little context. The first Japanese text adventure that is very muddled. At first I assumed that Mystery House, the Sierra game, got ported in 1982 and then people were inspired to write their own. I don't remember where I got onto this track, but I suspect the rip-off of Mystery House, called Mystery House, this one made by Micro Cabin, was inspired by the port, rather than the original version. I'm not sure there's a real first Japanese text adventure, sort of how such things were inevitable in the western world.
A typical Japanese adventure game

In 1983 The Portopia Serial Murder Case was released, the first major Japanese-style adventure game, where instead of doing actions on things or typing it out, you select from a list of options. For some reason that will become clear as you read, this was unimaginably popular in Japan and a good chunk of Japanese games were inspired in some way by it. As a result, actual text adventures never really took off in Japan, though there would be a few titles per year up until the early '90s. (this was all helped by Japanese computers tending towards smut than entertainment) Western graphical adventures would have a distinct niche, but usually ported to consoles and there are very few Japanese attempts at the genre.

Sunday 5 December 2021

Game 126: An American Tail - The Computer Adventures of Fievel / Fievel Goes West

By Torch

In 1986 Amblin Entertainment (Steven Spielberg’s movie studio) decided to challenge a certain other animation studio’s market dominance on animated anthropomorphic mice. Their champion was a movie about a jewish-russian mouse named Fievel Mousekewitz, who has to leave Russia with his family, to avoid persecution by anti-semittic cats. The Mousekewitzes decide to go to America after being told that there are no cats there. They manage to board a ship to New York (where else?), but before they arrive at their destination, there’s a storm, and Fievel gets washed overboard. Believing that he’s dead, the rest of his family continue on their journey. Fievel manages to hike a ride with a floating empty bottle and ends up in New York after all, where he sets out to reunite with his family.
Ah, the play on words (tail/tale)

Saturday 20 November 2021

Missed Classic 102: Stationfall - Introduction (1987)

Written by Joe Pranevich

A few years back, I planned a short marathon of 14 Infocom games directly or indirectly associated with the Zork franchise. Instead, I went a bit crazy and ended up playing all of the games, learning Cornerstone, and I’m this close to getting a Frobozz Magic Tattoo. It’s probably not healthy. Instead of this being our tenth game, it’s our twenty-eighth and we have a lot more to go. In the original marathon, Planetfall and Stationfall were connected to Zork thanks to grues, and a passing reference that they had been picked up from a backwater planet somewhere in the galaxy. It was a small hook, but expanding my goal to play all of Infocom made the point moot. July of 1987 gave us Infocom’s first double release with both Stationfall and The Lurking Horror making their debuts. Internal production data reveals that Stationfall was completed first, so it will be the first one that I play. 

To recap: 1987 had not been a great year for Infocom. The deal with Activision had concluded, Cornerstone had failed, and sales of text adventures were slowing down. Hollywood Hijinx bombed with only 12,000 copies sold. Bureaucracy failed to capitalize on its A-list “author”, Douglas Adams, and shipped only 28,000 copies. In order to offset the sales loss, Infocom was forced to produce twice as many games as before. Making games was difficult, but making twice as many games with the same team seemed impossible. Fortunately, Infocom still had a developer or two with recent hits: Steve Meretzky (with Leather Goddesses and Hitchhiker's Guide) and Brian Morarity (with Wishbringer). While these two would reach back to produce easily marketed sequels, other implementers sought fresh ideas. We’ll get to those sequels and fresh ideas before long, but for now let’s just focus on Stationfall.

Thursday 18 November 2021

Putt-Putt Goes to the Moon - Final Rating

By Ilmari

You know my dislike of anthropomorphic cars. Despite this, I’ve grown to tolerate Putt-Putt and his card friends. And although Putt-Putt games are simple, they still have an undeniable charm. We’ll see how far that goes with PISSED rating.

Puzzles and Solvability

It’s hard not to repeat oneself, when you are reviewing games that use the same formula. Just like with the first game, I could note that the puzzles are a bit on the obvious side, although that’s just to be expected, when you remember the intended audience. The puzzles in the second game are perhaps a bit more innovative than in the first game - at least I didn’t have to repeatedly go through a boring minigame.
Even the seemingly repetitive puzzles were fun because of all the hidden animations

Score: 3.

Sunday 14 November 2021

Missed Classic: The Count - Won and Final Rating

Written by Morpheus Kitami

Bela Lugosi just looks so goofy with a cigarette, I don't know why

Dracula has been portrayed by a wide variety of actors, but the best known are Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee. While Frankenstein is associated with Dracula thanks to Universal making films on both in the 1930s, did you know that both Lugosi and Lee have played Frankenstein's monster? Lee appears as the monster in the first Hammer Horror Frankenstein film, Curse of Frankenstein. Lugosi's is a touch more obscure, being Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman. It wasn't even Lugosi's first appearance in a Frankenstein film, as he originally appeared as Ygor, a blacksmith who was the victim of a botched hanging.

Speaking of Hammer Horror, I didn't realize it at the time of the first entry, but this general story matches up with Horror of Dracula's opening with Jonathan Harker, who goes into Castle Dracula to kill him...for reasons. Though in that case Dracula didn't know that Harker was trying to kill him at first. In that film Harker is distracted by a woman in a low cut dress, and instead of killing him, kills the woman.

Wednesday 10 November 2021

Putt-Putt Goes to the Moon - Won!

By Ilmari

Last time, Putt-Putt had got stranded on the Moon and found out he could buy a rocket with ten moon crystals. Also, he had to find a nose cone, key, steering wheel and some rocket fuel to make it go. Let’s start searching them!
The only city on Moon

Friday 5 November 2021

Missed Classic 101: The Count (1979) - Introduction

 Written by Morpheus von Kitami, Earl of The Adventure Guild

It's surprising to think that in all this time, no one's ever covered a game on Dracula here. Oh, there have been games with Dracula, like King's Quest II...and...uh...Elvira 2 maybe? Never beat the original, so I haven't played that. One could say there is a dirth of classic film monsters, but Dracula, unlike everyone else is a highly visible figure, with a multitude of famous actors who depicted Romania's most famous fictional son. Depictions range from kitsch to creepy to "romantic". He drinks blood, he refuses to cross running water, and he doesn't die in the sunlight. In addition to the novel by Bram Stoker, he's been in plays, music, film, TV, comics, manga, anime, dreams and of course, video games. What better place to start than the first title known to feature Transylvania's most famous son? And possibly the first adventure game centered around horror.

The Count is the fifth title from legendary American text adventure author Scott Adams. Released on every platform viable in 1979, and a few afterward. Including a C64 and a BBC Micro version. What can I say of Adams that hasn't already been said here? Apparently, everything, because the only games previously covered actually by Adams were the Questprobe series...which I thought were Infocom. I also thought he was British...so...anyway. He's the earliest person, at least successful person, to make original adventure games for home computers. Appearing on all the early American home computers, he managed to secure enough success in his efforts to publish other titles, like the ones made by the Pearsons.

Sunday 31 October 2021

Missed Classic 100: The Manhole (1988)

Written by Joe Pranevich

As we approached our 100th Missed Classic, we had a tremendous challenge. What game could possibly be interesting enough or “classic” enough to warrant the 100th spot? With so many games played, most of the obvious candidates were completed long ago. We’ve played the first adventures, early games from later designers, and best sellers. Our 100th game needed to be more than that. We wanted to find a game that didn’t just look back on the history of our genre, but would look forward to the next iteration. 

In the near future, we will be looking at Myst (1993). At arguably more than 7 million copies sold, Myst is certainly the best-selling adventure game of all time. Games like Myst and The 7th Guest (also 1993) will lead to major changes in adventure gaming, and some will claim the death of the genre. We’ll get to those topics in time, but before we can look ahead to Myst, we need to look back at its less well-known but hardly less amazing predecessor: The Manhole. As much an interactive experience as an adventure game, The Manhole stripped our genre to its most minimalist components. It doesn’t put icons or verbs between the player and the action, nor does it have a plot or real puzzles. The Manhole opens into an immersive world of whimsy and heart. The story of The Manhole is the story of two brothers, Rand and Robyn Miller, and an exciting new programming system for the Macintosh called “HyperCard”. They changed adventure gaming forever.

Sunday 24 October 2021

Welcome to The Adventurers Guild!

By the TAG Team

Ten years ago, “The Adventure Gamer” was born. TAG began as one man’s quest to play the history of notable graphical adventures, in order. Our initial host, Trickster, played and reviewed dozens of adventure games and chronicled the formative years of Sierra On-Line and LucasArts, among others. 

Seven years ago today, everything changed: Trickster’s quest came to an end. Instead of shutting down the site, Trickster handed off the reins of his project to the fans that supported him on his journey. No longer were we just a singular “The Adventure Gamer”, our family grew into a cadre of player reviewers to cover not only the games that Trickster didn’t make it to, but other games that he skipped from across the early history of our genre. We didn’t only keep the site that we love alive, we helped it to thrive. In those seven years, we’ve far exceeded the 45 original games on the site: we completed 74 main-line games and 99 “Missed Classics”. (Look for our special 100th Missed Classic later this week!) We’ve built a great community and continued to show our love for an important genre and era of retro gaming.

To honor this transformation and to celebrate our anniversary, the TAG team would like to present to you the next chapter of our adventure:

Welcome to the Adventurers Guild!

What does this change mean? It means we have a new name and a new identity, putting front-and-center that we are playing and reviewing games as a team. We’ll still play the same adventure games, in the same order. We’ll continue to have our community of reviewers and perhaps grow that community over time. We’ll still have the PISSED ratings and CAPs, and we’ll even keep our abbreviation “TAG”. (That was especially important!) All that changed was our name, our logo, and our emphasis. Our name change will also ensure that we are no longer confused for our friends at “Adventure Gamers”. 

Thank you to all of the writers and commenters that have made the last seven years possible. 

Wednesday 20 October 2021

Game 128: Putt-Putt Goes to the Moon - Introduction

By Ilmari

Art thou pale for weariness
Of climbing heaven and gazing on the earth,
Wandering companionless
Among the stars that have a different birth, —
And ever changing, like a joyless eye
That finds no object worth its constancy?

-Shelley: To the Moon

Thursday 7 October 2021

Missed Classic 99: Hurlements (1988)

 By Morpheus Kitami

Ah, Halloween, my second favorite time of the year. The temperature is just right after months of boiling hot weather, the trees are multi-colored spectacles, and there's a convenient excuse to watch films centered around skinny-dipping camp counselors getting murdered in horrible ways. I guess you only get one of those if you live in the southern hemisphere, but you're probably used to smug northerners talk about their weather anyway. Whether it's hot or cold, it's time to talk about horror video games.

Last...December, I played Zombi, an unlicensed adaptation of Dawn of the Dead, published by Ubi Soft. That was, oh, what's the word I'm looking for? Awful, but with potential. Dawn of the Dead is an interesting film from a sequel perspective. There's Day of the Dead, which is questionable, and I don't know how you'd make a good video game out of it. There are earlier scripts which are different than the finished product, but I don't know if they were available back then, but they could make good adventure games. There are a million films that are sequels to Dawn simply because some distributor owned both films. In short, there's a lot of places you could go. You could even make Emanuelle Meets the Living Dead, which isn't as insane as it sounds.

Sunday 26 September 2021

Missed Classic: Alice in Wonderland - Won and Final Rating

 By Morpheus Kitami

It could be said very easily that I don't care for this game. This is true. But as I finished the game, that apathy turned into hatred. Remember that gryphon I mentioned, then went past? I thought I exhausted my dialog options and he did nothing. No, turns out the gryphon has a cricket bat he wants to give me. I feel like I have to take such extensive notes the game ceases to be any fun just to have a chance of winning. The three M objects I was supposed give one of Alice's many, many clones? Yeah, one of them is just supposed to be a mushroom. The game straight-up lied to me there.

Alice jumps in a well

Saturday 18 September 2021

Missed Classic: Alice in Wonderland - Turning into Malice

 Written by Morpheus Kitami

It's been a while. I mean, this wasn't exactly a long hiatus, especially for this blog at this point...but it wasn't a worthy one. I have no real excuse. It's one thing if the game was bad, but it's not really. I could handle a bad adventure game, I don't have a problem with that, outside of extraordinary player hatred on the game's part. I just can't motivate myself to play a mediocre adventure game attached to a bad platformer. Mediocre platformers aren't my cup of tea, especially ones where the only challenge is around jumping. I like my platformers with big guns and big guns. Unfortunately I do not think that this will continue my trend of playing the rare adventure games involving machine guns and dumdum bullets.

I think that's the answer to any question regarding this game

To the game, I didn't figure out that riddle. If it's important, it's important, if it isn't, it isn't. Continuing right, I meet the Cheshire Cat again. Nothing new, but he does tell me I can use a whisker to save a baby. That's...informative and very subtle foreshadowing. The next room over has Alice's doppelganger, the secretary, say I need to enter a building to save a baby from jumping. The baby? The duchess that tries to find morals in every tale. Nothing seems to do anything with her. Maybe, I can't access a specific area since I have no way of reaching it. I do find an ancient muffin. This isn't as random as it sounds.

What's in the box? I think you know the answer to that question!

Outside I don't find much more, but I would like to point out that swimming is just so slow. Water causes basically a dead stop. The right eventually comes to a dead end by a town hall. I do get a memo by arguing with a card, a bureaucracy joke. Which raises questions if this actually is for children. It's possible, but boring adult topics just bore children. The answer to where to go next is in a fireplace. I missed it because I have to jump, walking goes below it. This is a one-way path, because a flying bug is blocking a vital path. I'm glad I'm not making a map anymore, because this is just a mess of bizarre one-way pathways. Writing down what time characters appear is only relevant if you tick a character off.

Thursday 16 September 2021

Space Quest V - Final Rating

Written by Joe Pranevich

For some players, Space Quest IV was the “true” end of the Space Quest saga. With an amazing time-travel plot to hint at Roger’s future exploits, it could have served as a capstone on the series. Roger ended that game knowing that someday he would have a family and be regarded as a hero. Not long after, Mark Crowe and Scott Murphy (“The Two Guys From Andromeda”) had a falling out. With their partnership disbanded, the series could (and perhaps should) have ended there. Instead, the following years brought us two further adventures: Space Quest V (1993), by Mark Crowe and David Selle, and Space Quest 6 (1995), by Josh Mandel and Scott Murphy. With only half the creative team on each, would these sequels be able to live up to their predecessors? 

When I started playing this one, my first question was about what would be missing; what did Scott Murphy bring to the party and would I be able to detect the absence of his charm? Would a game with 50% less “Andromeda” even feel like Space Quest? I’m not sure that it does, but I’m also pleased by how successful this attempt has been in its own right. Crowe and Selle pulled together a game that had much of what made Space Quest great, while layering on a “Next Generation” of humor and parody. I had a lot of fun and I hope you did too.

Now comes the difficult part where I have to put scores to my thoughts. Is this better or worse than Space Quest IV? Will our tie for 10th place expand to five titles? Let’s get to work.

Monday 6 September 2021

Space Quest V - Won!

Written by Joe Pranevich

We’ve just about made it to the end of Space Quest V. Roger Wilco’s games have never been known for high stakes, but this game ups the ante. The future mother of our children, Beatrice, has been saved and is resting comfortably. Our crew has not only survived, but thrived despite the low station of the garbage scow that we pilot. And now, we are the galaxy’s last hope against an invasion of mutated goo-monsters, led by the handsome-but-narcissistic Captain Quirk. I’m going to be sad to see this one go: the Star Trek-style jokes and structure has breathed new life into the “road movie” style of the previous Space Quest games. I respect that it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I have enjoyed this more than I expected.

All Good Messes...

Captain’s Log, Stardate: Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! It’s the throwdown of the century as the Eureka and Roger Wilco try to save the Goliath and all of civilization from the horrid goo-zombies! All we need to do now is board the ship, use the transporter trick we stole from a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode to cure the crew, and prevent the destruction of StarCon. Can we do it? I have no idea. 

Sunday 22 August 2021

Veil of Darkness - The Story Begins

Written by Zenic Reverie
Honestly, it'd probably take about 8 months to fully recover from a plane crash.
Apologies for the delay. When last we left Engatz, he had just crashed outside a small forgotten town somewhere in Eastern Europe. Pulled to safety, he roused in an unfamiliar house some undetermined time later. Dierdra was watching over us, and what a sight to wake to. She instructed us to find her father down the hall. Of course, this meant we'd take the long way and explore the whole house first. As I left Dierdra's room (more than likely a guest room, but it's where Dierdra is found) I confirmed full combat difficulty. The game offered some tutorial screens as I made my way through the corridors of my benefactor's mansion. The first described doors that are inconsequential to the story with "There is nothing important behind this door." At least half of them had this message.

Tuesday 27 July 2021

Missed Classic 98: Adventure Alpha (1984)

Written by Joe Pranevich

In 1984, Dr. William H. Kraus was a rare breed: one part game designer, one part Doctor of Philosophy in Mathematics Education. Up to this point, the games he had designed were simple, one-trick teaching tools for students in K-5. That was related in part to his academic bent: unlike most designers, he was concerned about quantifying and documenting the improvements his students saw while playing educational games. As he was sitting down to write what would be the first of three adventure games to break that mold, he made a prediction:

“In the not too distant future, it is likely that at least one microcomputer will be found in most elementary school classrooms and that teachers will wonder how they ever got along without them.” - “The Computer as a Learning Center.” Computers in Mathematics Education: 1984 Yearbook, edited by the National Council of the Teachers of Mathematics. 

Kraus never became a famous game designer. Perhaps his games were too stuffy and academic. Perhaps his evidence-based approach to teaching fun didn’t quite translate for enough students. Or perhaps, he just enjoyed doing the research that would benefit future teachers and educational game designers. Whatever the reason, his short design history has left us with only three adventure games: 1984’s Adventure Alpha and The Islands of Beta, and 1985’s The Lantern of D’Gamma. I looked at the second of these games five years ago, but now that archivists have discovered the missing original, I wanted to revisit these happy memories of my childhood again. 

You may have been expecting a Space Quest V post this week. Unfortunately, due to a computer emergency (and the discovery that I cannot write a blog post without the use of the letter “R”), my laptop has been shipped away for repairs. My write-up of Adventure Alpha has been sitting in the “draft” bin since the start of the COVID epidemic. With a borrowed computer and browser-based emulation, I was able to put in the time to finish the write-up. I hope you enjoy this diversion from our regularly scheduled content.

Thursday 22 July 2021

Missed Classic - Alice in Wonderland - Let Them Eat Cake

By Morpheus Kitami

Who could have possibly foreseen this course of events?

The area I left off in is definitely unpassable. Alice can't jump onto ropes, nor can Alice float onto a nearby platform. The doors definitely link back on each other, no trickery like last time. The only doors, which don't really look like small doors, but we'll go with that, are ones Alice is too big to fit into. What can Alice do? What can Alice do? She won't starve to death yet, since she has cakes. Its probably been 24 hours at this point, so she's probably hungry anyway...

Monday 12 July 2021

Dare To Dream – In A Darkened Room

Written by Will Moczarski

We’re back in little Tyler’s dreamland! I’ve decided to play one hour at a time in order to remember everything important for this write-up. Also, I need some kind of structure. Thirdly, I’m not bent on going crazy because of all the pixel-hunting. And let me tell you, it has already been quite the test.

Each chapter represents one hour of gameplay, accordingly. The first chapter is very short. Let’s hope it won’t always be like that…

Tuesday 6 July 2021

Space Quest V - Requiem for the Brundlefly

Written by Joe Pranevich

As we start this week, I’m of two minds. On one hand, Space Quest V has exceeded my recollections and expectations. The plot, the whimsy, and even the Star Trek references are hitting just right. The presence of a central ship and crew sets it apart from the other games in this series, fleshing out Roger’s world more than the “road movie”-style events of the previous games. On the other hand, I’m just about ready for the game to be over. Maybe it still has surprises in store, but it would be nice to come to the end this week or next.

As the title suggests, this week’s events borrow heavily from 1986’s The Fly starring Jeff Goldblum. As discussed in the comments on a previous post, I deal very badly with horror (and especially “body horror”) films, so I know it only by reputation. I encourage commenters to point out anything that I might have missed, but I suspect they borrowed little more than the idea that a transporter accident with a fly could cause wacky hijinks. This week also brings us the usual collection of Star Trek jokes, plus a pinch of Star Wars and a dash of Lassie. If I missed any references (anything from 2001?), let me know. 

Requiem for the Brundlefly

Captain’s Log, Stardate: Saturday morning and I’m missing my cartoons! Beatrice has been saved! Well, sort of. After responding to the Goliath’s distress call, we found only a single escape pod on the planet. After much heroics on my part (and absolutely not losing my pants in front of my future wife), I rescued the ambassador just as the mutants that used to be the Goliath’s crew attacked. Alas, the Ambassador was infected by the mutants before beaming up and we had to place her on ice. Now we wait. Can my little garbage scow stand up to one of the most powerful ships in the fleet? 

Saturday 3 July 2021

Missed Classic: Alice in Wonderland - Time and Place

Written by Morpheus Kitami

I do not often make maps. Most of the time, I am capable of orienting myself in a video game perfectly well. My memory is all that I need. Perhaps years of playing '90s FPS games and classic survival horror titles have given me that talent or it was one I was born with, the world will never know. Usually if I need a map I just hope one is online. Having to make a map is something I don't consider a mark in the game's favor, perhaps that's why I've never committed to playing Dungeon Master or any other map-needed game titles. I've only made one map before, and that was for Isle of the Dead, and I won't spoil the reason for that since it has yet to be played on this blog. 

But I decided to do a map for this game based on one reasoning, the game expects me to write down the times and locations of characters. There's a chart that comes with the game, where you're expected to do just that. Because I don't do this often, I'm not using some fancy software or anything. I'm just using my usual graphical software, adding various marks where something is, and writing down the characters schedules.

I don't have a choice here

Monday 21 June 2021

Space Quest V - Worst of Both Worlds (Parts I and II)

Written by Joe Pranevich

Welcome back! It sounds odd to say while writing about a Space Quest, but one of my favorite Sierra games is Quest for Glory IV. That game hardly needs an introduction, but one of my favorite things about it is the development of relationships between our Hero and the townsfolk. In previous Quest for Glory games, the Hero had a supporting cast of Katta innkeepers, a Saurian or two, and a sword-wielding lion. In the fourth title, he finds himself an unpopular and unwelcome visitor. Tolerated but not supported, the early hours of the game feel lonely as every pair of eyes look at you with suspicion. Gradually (and sometimes not so gradually), the townsfolk come to appreciate our heroic actions. One by one, their stoic exteriors are broken by the actions of our Hero. It may seem like such a small thing, but so much of my love for that game can be summarized by the feeling that you are making a difference. Space Quest V, finally and perhaps surprisingly, has progressed down the same path. After breaking Cliffy out of jail (and blowing up the evidence), Roger has built bridges to Flo and Droole. The latter is just impressed, but Flo appears to want to engage in some unprofessional activity. Everyone on the ship sees Roger as “one of them” and I love it. It’s a nice pivot and gets us ready for the darkness that is almost certainly coming.

This post was originally going to be divided into two parts, but I’m already struggling enough with the schedule so better to push it all out now. It comes together better that way anyway. We have a broader mix of inspirations this time out from Star Wars to Night of the Living Dead, plus more than a little Toxic Avenger for good measure. We’re still playing it all through a Trek lens, but the other inspirations are clearly there. Let’s sit down in the command chair and start our adventure of the week!

Worst of Both Worlds (Part I)

Captain’s Log, Stardate: Friday, I think. It’s all blurring together. Back to work! Moments after the mysterious and completely unexplained explosion that destroyed the Spacebar, we have been given another assignment: a trash pickup! Again! As we zoom off to collect the waste of Klorox II, we stand proud knowing that my crew and I are truly cleaning up the galaxy to make it a better place and not, by way of example, blowing up any space stations. 

Thursday 17 June 2021

Missed Classic 97: Alice in Wonderland (1985) - Introduction

Written by Morpheus Kitami

A long time ago, Trickster did the opening game on this blog, Below the Root. It was an interesting experiment at a time when graphic adventure games were finding their feet. Some time later, Kenny McCormick did another little known game called The Scoop, this one more mundane in style. What do those and today's title have in common? They were all made by the same company, Dale Disharoon, inc., after the head honcho, Dale Disharoon. (Its a French name) This all comes to a head with today's game, the middle child of Disharoon's PC adventure games, Alice in Wonderland.

If you were to make a list of the top 10 most influential works of English literature, Alice in Wonderland would be one of those works. If you had a wheelbarrow worth of Papiermarks for each reference that has been made, you'd have enough to buy a house on Mars. Its been interpreted, retold, reimagined so many times that I'm sure anything I could say would be unintentionally parroting someone. And I also can't really say I'm that much of an expert on the subject, I'm just an enthusiast. I just like the aesthetic.

So, instead let me tell you about John Tenniel, the illustrator for both original books. Tenniel originally worked as a political cartoonist for the magazine Punch, where he developed his signature grotesque style. A sort of precursor to the surrealists who would appear a few decades after his death. His work consists of the very real projected onto the not so real, i.e., human faces on animal heads. In comparison to those who would come after him, Tenniel had a very good eye for detail, which makes this much more effective than a lot of people who do similar styles. Further, I don't feel like I'm reading the work of a serial killer like in modern political cartoons. If you can find them, his cartoons provide a very interesting look back at 19th century politics.

Thursday 10 June 2021

Missed Classic: Knight Orc - Deconstructing Fantasy Tropes

By Ilmari

A clear trend in the final few Level 9 games has been an attempt to twist the tropes of their earlier games and give them a cynical new look. This trend began with the last game in the Silicon Dreams -trilogy, Worm in Paradise, where instead of fighting against a totalitarian government, the player character just climbed the social ladder to its governing class. A second example was The Price of Magik, which turned its predecessor, Red Moon, on its head and suggested in one of its two endings that the PC was not a powerful magician, but an inmate in an asylum.

Knight Orc continues the trend by making fun of Level 9’s previous Middle Earth games. The premise is already twisted, because the PC is not a brave hero or even a treasure seeking adventurer, but the usual baddie, an orc. Fantasy tropes are deconstructed even more later in the game. Before getting to that, let’s see how I got through the first part of the game.

Getting to know the ropes
My first quest was to gather pieces of rope and connect them into a one long rope that would help orc Grindleguts get to his home. Couple of the ropes were simply lying about:
  • Fastened to a gibbet (apparently a synonym for gallows), I found a noose made of hempen rope
  • Fastened to a goat, I found a tether
  • Inside an oak, I found a washing line
  • Fastened to a flagpole, I found a silk cord used as a halyard
Tying these ropes together made them magically combine into one seamless piece of rope. Still, it wasn’t enough and I had to do some proper puzzles to get more ropes. Finding myself near a well, I saw that it had no rope, but there was something glimmering at its bottom. I tied my piece of rope to the well roller and climbed down, where I found a green-slimed hessian hawser and a leather bucket containing gold brick. Later on, I noticed that the bucket could be used as a safe container for carrying items, since the roving adventures did not grab anything from it.
Middle Earth would sorely need an Orc Lives Matter movement

Saturday 5 June 2021

Game 122: Dare To Dream (1993) – Introduction

Written by Will Moczarski
It’s main game time! After two games set in the “palace of deceit”, Cliff Bleszinski decided to take a different approach for his third game. Conceived as a shareware game in three parts and written for Epic MegaGames, Dare To Dream is more polished, more immersive and generally more advanced than its predecessors. It is still a shareware game and probably shouldn’t be made to compete with mainstream classics like Day of the Tentacle or Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, which were released the same year. But all things considered, it looks, plays and feels much more like a professional product than the two high-school outings I’ve previously played through for this blog.

Tuesday 1 June 2021

Missed Classic 96: Knight Orc (1987) - Introduction

By Ilmari

The time of early computer gaming industry seems a lot more romantic than what came afterwards. There’s still a wonder of a new frontier, where lone coders or small family companies could strike gold or at least make a living with their creations, without the constant fear of some huge corporate business swallowing up the majority of the game market.
When Bill Gates, Michael Cera and Harry Potter went in a bar...
...ahhh, no, it's Pete, Mike and Nick Austin

Friday 28 May 2021

Space Quest V - The Trouble with Space Monkeys

Written by Joe Pranevich

Welcome back! It’s been a few weeks, but last time we saw Roger Wilco, he had just defeated (recruited?) an android intent on his destruction. With a stressful situation firmly in the rear-view mirror, Roger and his crew decided that they needed a little post-mission rest and relaxation at the Space Bar. If anything, last time’s post reinforced the Star Trek pastiche as we played through our first “away mission” on a surprisingly Earth-like planet. As you can guess from the title this week, we’re not going to escape the Star Trek references any time soon.

The Trouble with Space Monkeys

Captain’s Log, Stardate: Thursday and it’s a 5 o’clock world when that whistle blows; no one gets a piece of my time. My crew and I are beaming down to the Space Bar for some well-deserved shore leave after our recent exploits on Kiz Urazgubi. I am certain that no death and destruction awaits us because shore leave episodes are peaceful ones. If I get chased by any giant bunnies that are “late”, I will be certain to shoot first and ask questions later. With luck, we’ll get the “oversexed natives with a secret” sort of shore leave and I won’t mind if we never discover their secret...

Saturday 22 May 2021

Missed Classic 95 (1992) - Weird Island

Written by Morpheus Kitami

Weird, as following the I before E rule

There are some games, that you can tell what they're going to be about just by looking at the title. Weird Island or Wierd Island. Maybe it takes place on a plane, that'd be weird. The readme, before talking about the story, mentions an original 'point and click' interface, eradicating the need for typing complex sentences. Perhaps I'm showing my age, but I can't remember typing any complex sentences into a game, and I have the benefit of living in an age where you could easily program a response to this entire paragraph, in a game. 

Anyway, story: 
[Leafing through the newspaper one morning you come across a notice requesting your presence at 'HUGH, PUGH and BARNEY-MAGREW Solicitors to Elizabeth Taylor.' Puzzled (and who wouldn't be), the next day you visit the solicitors where you are told that you have come into possession of a remote island paradise. The island was apparently claimed by five galley slaves many, many years ago; one of whom was your ancestor (its nice to know who your descended from). 

Ownership of the island passes between the families of the founders every 100 years and your family is next in line to do with the island what you wish. You were supposed to be told this by the previous owner of the island but he seems to have conveniently disappeared. Anyway, the solicitors suggest you go out to the island to see for yourself. Strangely, you feel happy to oblige...] 

I see several problems with this. Firstly, while I can believe this agreement can withstand modern times, I'm not clear on how a bunch of slaves were able to keep hold of an island during Roman times, or the Dark Ages. They were galley slaves, you want to tell me that all the Edmunds that were kings in those times were okay with that? Could have just written that I won a contest, dude. I'm American, for one, I'm not going over to jolly old England without being told why without a paid-for ticket. Secondly, I am not an orphan descended from orphans, why do I specifically get this island? Thirdly, what if I don't browse the personal ads?

Thursday 13 May 2021

Missed Classic: The Palace of Deceit: The Dragon’s Plight – WON! and Final Rating

Written by Will Moczarski
To my enormous relief, the second Palace of Deceit game turned out to be winnable. It took a lot of pixel hunting to get there but finally we were able to save the day. A short recap is probably in order: We play a blue dragon called Nightshade who was imprisoned by the evil wizard Garth who hates dragons and wants to kill all of them. Why we are still alive, I don’t know, and game logic is not strong with this one but it was still a rewarding experience.

Thursday 6 May 2021

Missed Classic: The Nine Lives of Secret Agent Katt - Won and Final Rating

 Written by Morpheus Kitami

Previously, I had almost solved my problems, but was forced to restart the game thanks to an admittedly generous time limit. I do believe it's linked to your actual actions as opposed to in-game time, given the game's speed issues, is a pretty good bit of foresight, all things considered. I mean, someone with foresight would also not force the player through duct work or a crappy action sequence...but I get ahead of myself.

Does that mean we won't be able to sell it?

So, the key, this opens a room with another jewel. It's some stupid name, but it's the jewel that opens the scanner. So this means I can take the final jewel, the one I really need. It occurs to me this is just key busywork, but with another name. Upon using the jewel, the door opens really slowly. As can be expected.

That's awfully blue for a black jewel...

...and I've found the jewel...and no money. I can take it, but the alarm is tripped. I have no empty soda can to change it with. The only thing I can think of that I'm missing is the guard in the bathroom. Leaving my squad somewhere safe, I return to the bathroom. Nothing. I go back to the furnace, crank it up, and return. Nothing. Maybe he's doing a number 2? I try opening the door. It works. I wasn't expecting that.

So what happens if someone needs to take a no. 2?

Aha, the scuba gear. That means the scuba section. I was wondering when that would happen. What wonders await?

Monday 26 April 2021

Missed Classic 94: The Palace of Deceit: The Dragon’s Plight (1992) – Introduction

 Written by Will Moczarski

Here we go again! According to Wikipedia, The Palace of Deceit was “remade for Windows 3.x and subtitled The Dragon’s Plight as a graphical point-and-click adventure game with an entirely new plot and graphics”. Call me old-fashioned but how is this a remake and not a sequel? You actually play a dragon in this one, so it must at least be a spin-off. However, the designer was still Cliff Bleszinski and according to a portrait of the man written by a guy called Joe Funk (seriously!) in Hot Jobs in Video Games (2010) his inspirations were the ICOM games like Déjà Vu and Uninvited. I’ve already pointed out the similarities to Shadowgate when playing the first iteration of the game, so this doesn’t actually come as a shock.

Friday 23 April 2021

Missed Classic: The Nine Lives of Secret Agent Katt - Too Many Numbers

 Written by Morpheus Kitami

Secret Agent Katt is a weird game. I don't mean weird in the usual sense. There's nothing I could take out of context and say, what is this crap? Nothing like Inca or Melvin Freebush, or whatever Japanese obscurities there are. Secret Agent Katt is entirely mundane in that regard. Too mundane. In Secret Agent Katt, the most obvious answer is seemingly the right answer. Door's locked? Find a key. Nothing does anything? Well, its already open you fool.

In the mythical women's bathroom

Meanwhile, in a gas station bathroom...

I had done something, that was certain, but what did I do? The lounge area offered me nothing but a guard. It had two bathrooms, the woman's one was clean and the men's was dirty. Get it? Because women are prim and proper, while men pull a Jackie Chan on the ceiling to take a dump. Nothing here. Not even opening the faucet does anything. I should explain, in Last Half, if you messed with one, they turned on and the sink overflowed. Neat touch. I'm not seeing that here. At some point coming back here, I saw a guard, but I ran away afterward, uneager to waste ammo. We'll find out if that's right later.


Nearby there was a vending machine...which was unplugged for some reason. I didn't do that. I plug it in. There are some names on the wall, but is that for a puzzle or just something clever? I have no money. You'd think unidentified US black ops agency would give their agents a few Lira before dumping them somewhere in Italy.

Wednesday 21 April 2021

Space Quest V - Arena of Freedom

Written by Joe Pranevich

Welcome back! Last time out, Roger Wilco had his first adventure at the helm of the garbage scow, SCS Eureka. We met our crew, collected three sets of garbage, and rescued a poor face-hugger with a case of indigestion. Thus far, I am loving the Star Trek pastiche. The whole game has been note-perfect with just the right amount of love for the franchise while still ripping apart its conventions. We’ll see whether we can keep it up. After our third pickup, we were assaulted by an android assassin that wants Roger dead. For most people, having a killer robot try to kill you would be a pretty big deal, For Roger, it’s just Wednesday.

Let’s get on with the game!

Arena of Freedom

Captain’s Log, Stardate: Wednesday morning, after my first cup of coffee but before my second. No sooner than my brave crew and I finish our appointed rounds, but we are assaulted by a mechadroid. My dark past has caught up to me and I’m forced to face an assassin on my own or risk the lives of my crew. Will my mistakes doom us all? I’m beaming down. If I don’t return, bring back my overdue library books. 

Monday 19 April 2021

Missed Classic: The Palace of Deceit: The Secret of Castle Lockemoer – WON!-ish and Final Rating

Written by Will Moczarski
Thou shalt not pass.
First of all let me say: what a fantastic community we have here at The Adventure Gamer. I had five people respond to my request for assistance with great advice – alas, it was not to be: The Palace of Deceipt indeed appears to be a game of deceipt, it is unwinnable in its present state and I’ve boldly gone as far as I could have gone in playing through it. However, the good news is that the remaining text bits of the game are somewhat readable as parts of the main .exe file, so I will try my best to provide you with a second-hand account of what the other parts might have played like.

Let’s resume our story, and go back to the armoury where I found a shield with my family crest on it. When I try to take the shield, I hear a deep rumbling from within the suit of armour next to it. The suit comes to life and proceeds to attack me with a sharp sword. If I try to kill the knight, the game informs me that I left the knife (you know, the cutz-o-matic one) with the carcass – however, there’s still a sleeping lion next door, right? I open the door and...the lion springs at the knight and knocks him over. He proceeds to tear him to pieces, and then turns to me. There appear to be multiple solutions for what happens next: holding up the shield either results in the lion shredding it to pieces of metal but then blacking out because there “must have been something in the meat”, or the lion’s head “clangs off the shield, and he drops to the ground, knocked out, several of his teeth scattered around the room. […] There are now 19 knights here, a knocked out lion, shreds of metal, lion's teeth, and a frustrated adventurer (you).” A frustrated adventurer? You can say that again. It’s strangely meta to read this parser output after THE CRASH.