Monday 17 April 2023

Game 134: Gateway II: Homeworld (1993) - Introduction

Written by Reiko
The second game in the Heechee saga, Gateway II: Homeworld is of course the sequel to Frederik Pohl's Gateway, which I played back in 2016-2017. As I mentioned then, Gateway II was one of my favorite childhood games, so I'm very glad we've finally made it here. In fact, I still have the physical game that I've kept all these years. (I'm not sure where the box went, but at least I have the game itself!) It's been six years since I played Gateway, and far longer than that for Gateway II, so I will be rediscovering the game as I play, although I do remember bits and pieces.

The Gateway games are loosely based on the science fiction novel by Frederik Pohl; the main character, Robinette Broadhead, is ostensibly the same in the games, although compared to a game protagonist, the personality is far stronger in the book. The setting is that of a sort of science fiction gold rush to exploit alien technology found in a space station located between the orbits of Mercury and Venus. Built by the Heechee millennia ago, the space station is filled with automated ships with FTL drives set to go random places in the galaxy. Some locations might be interesting, while others might be dangerous, or even deadly.

In the first game, the main character has won a lottery ticket that will take him to the station, where he can then try his luck with the ships, to see if he can find any useful technology to bring back and sell. The first part of the game involves exploring the station, going on some basic missions, finding a few Heechee artifacts, and working our way up to get more lucrative and interesting location codes.
Successfully completing a mission.
The second part of the game is where the stakes are raised, as we have to visit four more worlds on a top-secret mission to save the galaxy. Another alien race that the Heechee just called the Assassins destroy all other civilizations once they reach a certain threshold of technology by sensing artificial radiation using a station called the Watchtower. Presumably we're going to reach that level very soon. Fortunately, the Heechee already built a cloaking device to protect their part of the galaxy, but for some reason they never activated it. That's where we come in.

Each of the four shield generator planets has its own set of puzzles, some of which require objects from the station. The fourth planet also has a notable and friendly NPC: Rolf Becker, who was a prospector lost years ago on his third mission. An optional sub-puzzle is to learn how to be kind to Rolf so that he'll want to come back to the station with you. After we activate all four generators, we learn that there's a fifth piece that must be activated at a location in the same system as the Watchtower. We have to go into enemy territory, basically, and after we get there, we find ourselves caught in a VR trap set up by the Assassin AI. We have to use techniques learned earlier in the game to break the VR programming, escape the trap, defeat the AI, and get the shielding system fully activated.
This guy really grows on you.
Completing all that and saving humanity to boot makes our plucky protagonist one rich Robinette. My official station balance at the end of the first game was over $47 million! Now he can return to Earth and retire a rich man if he likes. But the stage is set for a sequel, because the Watchtower was only an outpost for the Assassins, and one of the Heechee artifacts indicated that the Heechee themselves are still out there somewhere as well. This isn't the end of the story, of course.

Thursday 6 April 2023

Blue Force – WON!

by Alex
Adventure games, as with any sort of storytelling, consist of a series of promises. In a narrative that at least attempts to be coherent, you have a setup, whereby you promise your readers/viewers/players that something will happen, and then you have a payoff, where you keep that promise. This is a reduction of storytelling into two broad parts, but the setup/payoff combination comes into play many times during the course of a given narrative.

Generally speaking, audiences are forgiving up to a point. Fool them once, okay that can slide. But anything more than that and you’re in dangerous territory where you will leave the player, as the case may be with Blue Force, with a serious case of blue balls expectations.

In the first comment to my last Blue Force post, which was published last year, esteemed adventure game designer and all-around cool guy Corey Cole began by stating “This is actually starting to sound like a complex, multi-layered story . . .”

Monday 3 April 2023

Missed Classic 119: Refixion (1991)

 Written by Morpheus Kitami

Well, anything is going to be a bit of a downgrade after one of the greatest adventure games of all time, and going in I already knew this wasn't going to be any kind of challenge. It's something I wanted to cover for a while, and one of the very first (pre-rendered) 3D adventure games. Actual early 3D, not the Playstation era.

Let's be very accurate here. Adventure "game". This is something akin to an interactive music video. There were a fair number of these things back in the '90s. Queensryche, Prince, The Rolling Stones and Devo, among many others. Some of these have more legitimate claims to being games than others. Its something we've all sort of forgotten since most people are only vaguely interested in music and superfans don't have any money because they spend so much on concert tickets.

I'm going to continue to call it game, without quotation marks, simply because that's easier for me to keep track of.

Saturday 1 April 2023

Simon the Sorcerer - Final(ly) Rating


By Will Moczarski

Here goes nothing! It took me six months to rate this game which must be a record for the blog. What happened to me? Laukku put it very nicely: “Still distracted by BloodNet, he claimed not to have forgotten Simon the Sorcerer's final rating in that game's introduction post.” 

Sorry about the long wait, I was (and still am) busy playing BloodNet among other things. To refresh my memory I reread all of my posts and played through the whole game once more. There will be two more Simon posts in the near future (about the talkie version and about the contemporary reviews) but finally the score will be revealed. And what can I say? It sums up my opinion of the game quite well.