Saturday 29 October 2022

Missed Classic 114 - Transylvania (1982)

 Written by Morpheus Kitami

Polarware/Penguin Software is a name we've seen on this blog before, but in a really roundabout way. Back when Voltgloss talked about Oo-Topos he was also reviewing the first Polarware game the blog has seen. I'm sticking with Polarware. Polarware was the brainchild of one Mark Pelczarski, who I suspect is Polish in some way. He started off creating some of the first color drawing programs on the Apple II. Somewhere around 1982, Pelczarski decided to publish some adventure games. So the story goes that the author of this game, one Antonio Antiochia, then a teenager, showed it to Pelczarski and he liked it so much he gave the lad his drawing program and said he'd publish the end result.

Actually, I say adventure games, but really, only one came out in 1982, everything else that year were generic and forgotten action games. The only interesting titles among those they published outside of the adventure genre was some of Damon Slye's early work. Its a funny thing in retrospect, how so many of these action titles from the '80s people worked hard on at the time, and now they are forgotten entirely in lieu of adventure games only enjoyed by a select few.

All of these games use Polarware's very own COMPREHEND Engine, and most use The Graphics Magician, their in-house graphics engine. The Graphics Magician got licensed out to companies, so I think this is the very first example of a engine part getting licensed out to other companies. Don't quote me on that, I haven't done any research. Ironically enough Oo-Topos was the last Polarware title to use The Graphics Magician, so you've already seen how this will end.

I'll be playing the Macintosh version. The game was released on most available western computers, along with some Japanese computers. There was also a rerelease, with presumably a newer engine and the ability to play it on an Amiga, but it doesn't look that impressive to me. One quirk here, the game disk ejects every time I quit the game. Which means sometimes when I quit I have to reinsert the disk.

Tuesday 25 October 2022

Blue Force (1993) – Introduction

by Alex
The email was innocent enough. Subject: “Blue Force and Larry 6.” Sender: The Adventure Gamer The Adventurers Guild’s very own Ilmari Jauhiainen. The message: “Hi Alex! I hope you are doing well. I just noticed that Blue Force - the last Jim Walls made adventure game - is coming up and there’s your name written on it. Do you think you can take up the challenge? Also, Larry 6, another game with your name on it, is coming up pretty soon after Blue Force. Do you think you can do two games so close to one another? All the best, Ilmari.”

My mind raced. Here I was, two years older and wiser . . . well, older, than the last time I played a game for this illustrious blog. Of course I wanted to do another one. Another two, in fact, but little did I know/remember I had already agreed to play these two. Apparently, I am a leading expert on games made by Jim Walls and Al Lowe.

Sweat began to coat my fevered brow. My heart skipped a beat, and then another! I debated calling a doctor, but then remembered that this is just a dramatic retelling and not real life. So gamely, I screwed my courage to the sticking place and sent a terse, very ominous, and very age-appropriate (I’m 41) reply:

“What’s up man?”

Monday 17 October 2022

Game 133: Dracula Unleashed - Introduction (1993)

Written by Joe Pranevich

In the 1980s, if you wanted a spine-chilling adventure game, ICOM Simulations was the place to go. For all that Infocom’s The Lurking Horror (1987) might cause you to sweat a bit and Lucasfilm’s Maniac Mansion (also 1987) knew how to chill you in a sort of Addams Family goofiness, ICOM Simulations brought true horror to adventure gaming with 1986’s The Uninvited and (to a lesser extent) the the following year’s Shadowgate. These games were works of art and their high-resolution black and white imagery (in their original Macintosh versions) made your skin crawl as you plumbed their adventuring depths. 

By the 1990s however, ICOM had left those horror roots behind. Their big hit series had become Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective, a delightfully well-lit exploration of 19th century London’s criminal underworld. But by 1993, David Marsh and Karl Roelofs would get two chances to bring ICOM back to their horror roots: Beyond Shadowgate and Dracula Unleashed. Beyond Shadowgate will need to wait for another time (it was a TurboGrafx-CD exclusive title and outside our scope), but Dracula Unleashed turned a dark mirror on the Sherlock Holmes series, taking the format and conventions that they developed for those happy little adventures and bringing them to a world of pain and blood. In other words, perfect Halloween fare!

I’ve been dying to play this game for years. Let’s get to it.

Monday 10 October 2022

Missed Classic: Nord and Bert - You Don’t Know Jack About Farming

Written by Joe Pranevich

Welcome back! We’ve been away from Nord and Bert longer than I expected, thanks first to our “amputated content” close-out for Lurking Horror and the Kevin Pope interview. Add to that some great progress on our mainline games and there wasn’t quite enough room to slot this in before now. And while I’m back to playing, please see a note at the bottom of this post for a scheduling option if you would like to see us accelerate one horror-related game to land in “spooky season” October. As Nord and Bert isn’t precisely an adventure game, I’m not sure the best way to write about it. I’ve decided to explain more of the wordplay as I go along as an aid to our readers who may not be as familiar with American expressions and English wordplay. I’ll do my best to find the right balance and if I’ve missed, please let me know in the comments below. 

Last time out, we started into the first “chapter” of the game as we solved a number of homophone and homonym-related challenges at Punster’s local grocery store. Once we finally found the cellar (“seller”) and purchased some on-sale (“sail”) food using a single cent (“scent”) that we found in a bouquet of flowers (“flour”), the chapter closed and we were able to select our next adventure. There doesn’t seem to be any required order yet (even though we were given a password for the endgame) so I’ll just proceed one by one. I’m planning to do two chapters per post for now, but if one is longer or shorter than the others, I will adjust.

Friday 7 October 2022

7th Guest - More Tiles, Less Death

Written by Reiko

To be honest, I stalled out for a long time on this section. Partly it was due to being busy, and partly it was too many puzzles that were more fiddly than fun, and finally it was a matter of not even being able to find the endgame areas for a long time. I think I must have missed triggering a scene that was required to be able to get to the next stage after finishing all the earlier puzzles, and I only found it after painstakingly rechecking every room multiple times.

I didn't remember to screenshot the map until I had already done the next puzzle, in the doll room on the left end of the corridor.

I look at the map to orient myself and see that it looks like there are four unsolved rooms left, plus the back stairs and the main upstairs hallway. There's the rectangular area off to the side on the main floor that looks disconnected from the rest of the house. There's the lab adjacent to the ornate room and the chapel, which I already know is the microscope puzzle. And there are two rooms down at the left end of the upstairs hallway.

Tuesday 4 October 2022

Simon the Sorcerer – WON!

Written by Will Moczarski

Last time I took a break having solved all of the puzzles and finished all of the fetch quests in the game's rather large overworld. I thought I might be ready for the endgame but didn’t think it would be that straightforward. Actually I thought I’d just try to enter the tower and get the lay of the land without taking screenshots or completing my map – and then it was all over in about 80 minutes. Thus I had to replay the whole section for this post but as it’s quite short that was not a problem.

First I had to figure out how to enter the tower. As you can see above there’s a fiery pit separating me from the entrance. I had just obtained the witch’s broom so it wasn’t much of a puzzle. Simon mounted it, winked at me and flew straight into the stone doors. But I had still made it in one piece. Now that I was closer Simon was able to discern that the doors were big, heavy, magically enchanted, and wouldn’t budge. I remembered that somebody in the game had told me how to enter the tower in the very beginning so I went over my notes and found one that said the druid might be able to help. I went back to the druid but he just said hello and offered no dialogue options, behaving as if I had no further business with him. I also stopped by the Drunken Druid (this game’s SCUMM bar) but the wizards wouldn’t talk to me anymore either. Finally the valkyries confirmed (although I’m quite sure that I had first heard it from the wizards) that the druid might be able to help if somebody wanted to enter the tower. I then realised how stupid I had been.

A few hours ago I picked up some frogsbane on Skull Island because the druid had asked me to. When I brought it back to him he gave me a green potion labelled “DRINK ME” in return. Now I understood I had to consume this if I wanted to enter the tower. The Alice reference didn’t end there. Simon shrank to the size of a mouse, lost all of his belongings in the process and entered the tower through a small crack. Inside I was reunited with my dog who just carried me to the next room which turned out to be...a giant garden. 

Saturday 1 October 2022

Missed Classic 113 - Last Half of Darkness (1989)

 Written by Morpheus Kitami

You ever get a sign that you should do something? Its not something I frequently see or even think of, but sometimes it feels like these things just...happen. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't. In the lead-up to this month's Halloween a game name kept cropping up. The Last Half of Darkness, well, there's no the, is there? I was randomly seeing the game crop up. Sometimes even, that image. If you don't know what I mean you will soon enough. Considering that 3 out of the last 4 professional adventure games I've tried were crap, we might as well see what the more amateur side of adventure gaming.

Back when I was a small, impressive child with access to a shareware CD I played a lot of shareware adventure games, with mixed results. The Hugo series was...the Hugo series. Elves '87 I wasn't terribly interested in actually playing and instead tried to play it as a beat 'em up. Uh, Dare to Dream and Weird Island were later. Come to think of it this disc didn't even have Hugo 2. Not really sure why in retrospect. Standards didn't apply because there was crap worse than Hugo 2. Then there was this.

Oh, certainly, there were other adventure games on the disc I had, and indeed more still on other discs, but this was the one I played the most at the time. I'm not really sure why in retrospect. It's not very special. Though I guess that really just describes shareware adventure games outside of Dare to Dream and maybe Plague of the Moon. Well, in Plague's case I haven't played it, but I hope to be able to blog about it some day. I guess there was Isle of the Dead there too, but I never mustered up the courage to play it. It wouldn't have been much fun anyway.