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