Friday 22 April 2022

Game 125: Return of the Phantom (1993) - Introduction

 Written by Morpheus Kitami

Unfortunately, it does not look like TBD will be able to play this game as promised. I hope that I will be an acceptable substitute. I hope you will all join me in wishing a swift and beneficial resolution to whatever problems ail him.

American cover, from Mobygames

Return of the Phantom is the third adventure game developed and published by Microprose, though the second developed through internal team MPS Labs*. Microprose, if you don't know, was founded by Air Force Reserves member Bill Stealey and some unimportant programmer named Sid Meier. That the developer of some mediocre racing game would somehow turn making the same flight sim three times** into making landmark games and slapping his name on titles he wasn't even primarily responsible for is something impressive.

*However, they also distributed the first three Legend games, no doubt why the manual for Rex Nebular was written by Steve Meretsky.

**Hellcat Ace, Spitfire Ace, and Mig Alley Ace, okay, one is actually written by someone else, but they're practically the same game anyway.

Indeed, some of my fondest early memories of games are playing, or even wishing to play Microprose titles. If not the main man himself, it was one of his friends. For every Pirates! or Covert Action, you had Sword of the Samurai or Darklands. Sometimes they would make a sequel to a game Sid worked on, because they had a great idea on how to improve it, and they usually worked. It's perhaps a romanticism of a time and place I would never be in, the truth probably less impressive. Nevertheless, it remains that Microprose was one of the greatest computer companies of the '80s.

Return of the Phantom comes at the end of the company's great period. Not too long after the company had tried and failed to enter the arcade market, but it was not yet in dire enough straits for their purchase by Spectrum Holobyte. I wonder if this, rather than the direct sales of Legacy - Realm of Terror, was responsible for the lack of any sequels or follow-ups.

Wednesday 20 April 2022

Game 129: Simon the Sorcerer (1993) – Introduction

 Written by Will Moczarski

Things were simpler in 1993. LucasArts was still churning out amazing adventure games and no-one saw the death of the genre coming. Granted, FMV games and Myst were slowly chipping away at the genre's reputation but the core of the point & click experience was largely intact. Now some games used a simplified interface while others still followed the model that had been established with the SCUMM engine in 1987 – an interface that could be understood as a graphical representation of the parser that had fueled so many text adventures. Simon the Sorcerer was one of the many games that copied the LucasArts formula using a very similar verb list but games like this would soon feel like roadblocks on the way to the casual adventure game of the mid-1990’s. However, in 1993 this was all fair game. 

Another common wisdom that remained true from the mid-1990’s until 2002 was that there were two Simon the Sorcerer games (and two only) and people would tell you “eh...they’re good”. Some people loved them, some people didn’t quite feel they were the bee’s knees but on the whole they were regarded as quality point & click adventure games. Then the series shared the fate of so many others and got some rather unfortunate late sequels. The less said about them the better.

One of the most interesting tidbits about Simon the Sorcerer – albeit with relatively little effect on the actual gameplay experience, I reckon – is that it unites two of the most important early adventure game brands: Adventure Soft and Infocom. Infocom? That’s right, Activision used the brand of the now-defunct company they’d bought and (at least helped to) run into the ground to market this British game in the United States. And Adventure Soft? Well, that’s a hell of a story.

Sunday 17 April 2022

Missed Classic - Twin Kingdom Valley - WON! and Final Rating

Written by Morpheus Kitami

Me and the boys about to fire up a text adventure

Last time, I had explored half of the map in my noble quest to rob everyone and everything I could of their treasure. It wasn't going well, primarily because everyone else was on a distasteful quest to kill me and take everything not nailed down. Those monsters, those evil, evil gorillas, elves and trolls. I must use my wits to prevent them from stopping me.

This is one psychotic gorilla

Last time, I did not quite save at the proper time, and now somehow the small dagger is not where it once was. I have no idea where it went. It just disappeared. This seems to be a sign that things have gotten mixed around since last time. I encounter a gorilla south of the path to the north, and he's got two clubs and an axe. How the hell did he even get that? Anyway, I can't kill him, the axe is just too powerful.

I feel like someone was trying to cheat me

I decide to just ignore him and head to that cave. It doesn't actually connect the two parts of the map, it's just a small sideplace. You know, a surprising number of descriptions you could give underground passages sound rather strange out of context. Not that there's much here, just another dagger and some locked doors. This better not be one long chain of keys.

Wednesday 13 April 2022

Eric the Unready - Final Rating

By Ilmari

I am in a difficult position of having officially played only the last few scenes of the game, while the majority of posts have been written by the Brown Dragon. Although it will be difficult to integrate my playing experience with what TBD thought about it, I’ll try to take his statements into account at least in some measure. Let’s begin!

Sunday 10 April 2022

Missed Classic 108 - La Abadía del Crimen (1987) - Introduction

Written by Mariano Falzone

Adventure games were highly popular in my home country of Argentina in the 90s and early 2000s, when I grew up. Actually paying for games, though, not so much. In our defense, video games were very expensive, the titles available were very scarce, and most parents, even if they could afford to buy one once in a while, never saw anything of value in them, or just didn’t know what all the fuss was about nor seemed to care. That’s why I and many other youngsters would spend our time scavenging through abandonware websites in Spanish. There were even many sites dedicated especially to adventure games, from both Spain and the Americas.

La Abadía del Crimen was a title that was always mentioned in those places. There was a cultish aura about it. I remember thinking that it looked interesting, but I was far more invested in LucasArts stuff, so I must’ve downloaded it, put it somewhere in my computer and forgotten about it. I mean, I could download Fate of Atlantis or Monkey Island in Spanish anyway. For all I knew, La Abadía del Crimen was just another translated American game. Only when I grew older did I learn that it was an 80s game from Spain and one that had never been translated into English, and why that made it unique.

Wednesday 6 April 2022

Eric the Unready - To Baldly Go Where All Hair Has Gone Before!

By Ilmari
The end of previous post
Time for some spring cleaning! I’ve agreed to finish Eric the Unready, which TBD set out to play a while ago. Fortunately, the end is already near, as we are facing a group of rather familiar swamp rafters. The atmosphere is full of jokes, some more good than the others. Captain Smirk speaking to a real log made me smirk and so did a skeleton called Bones, while Doctor Spock’s lines with paediatric twists sparked even a few snortles. Dressing Scotty in a kilt and making the helmsman a literal Zulu… not so much, and when I understood the rowing Native Americans were meant to be the engines, I wondered why I had to be punished so hard.

I boarded the raft, which took off to the swamp, but quickly got lost in the fog. The helmsman could clearly use some roddenberries that improve sense of direction. This joke welt flat, since, to be frank, Star Trek franchise was often better without Roddenberry’s sense of direction.

Tuesday 5 April 2022

What's Your Story: Mariano

Answers: Mariano

Introduction and Captions: Will Moczarski

It's time to formally introduce another member of our community who has recently joined our team of reviewers here at The Adventurers' Guild: please give a warm welcome to Mariano! 

Mariano has already started to review La abadía del crimen and his introductory post will be up on Friday. And if you're curious what he is doing when he is not busy reviewing adventure games we'll try to satisfy your curiosity below. 

Sunday 3 April 2022

Dare to Dream - Final Rating

Written by Will Moczarski

Dare to Dream was the first main game I had the pleasure of playing for the blog, and it was quite the enjoyable experience, too. However, I am unsure how it will (and should) fare in our PISSED rating because it’s a shareware game, meaning its production values aren’t exactly triple A even by the standards of 1993. 

Friday 1 April 2022

Missed Classic 107 - Twin Kingdom Valley (1983) - Introduction

Written by Morpheus Kitami

There's a sort of empty space in the history of adventure games between 1982 and 1985. At least I feel that way. The '70s had the mainframe games, followed by Scott Adams and Infocom. Then Sierra came along and did graphical text adventures, and before King's Quest we have a handful of literary adaptations and text adventures with pictures. There's not really much discussion of this time period, even among people who like text adventures. Things sort of disappeared into the ether outside of Infocom. Let's see some of them.

Twin Kingdom Valley was not my first choice, but my first choice has about 1000 pages of backstory I feel I should read first. Twin Kingdom Valley is a fantasy text adventure, one I keep getting confused as Twin Valley Kingdom and now I'm not sure which way is up. The back does not describe much, just that its a fantasy game with 175 rooms. Its one of two games Trevor Hall developed and the only adventure. While he is mentioned as having made a few other games, only an obscure text strategy game seems to be credited to him on online databases.

Morpheus desperately trying to play The Hobbit, 2007, colorized

Twin Kingdom Valley's claim to fame is active NPCs, these having their own, hopefully complex personalities and move around. This gives me flashbacks to The Hobbit, where NPCs moved around while you slowly tried to figure out what to do. For me, that meant dying to the trolls before they would go on to killing and eating Gandalf, Gimli, the rest of the dwarves, Morgoth, Saruman, the Silmarils, uh, Cirith Ungol, Angband and the rest of the universe. So, let's hope it isn't one of those adventure games.