Friday 30 June 2023

Game 135: Lost in Time - Introduction (1993)

By Michael
That tagline could be referring to so many people in our government, past or present.
The last time we met, I had just finished plundering a castle for some loot. Amazingly, no one told me that the artifacts really belonged in a museum, so I continued my life of crime, and, finally released from Shawshank, I am back here with you.

That said, I’m glad to be back, and we’ll be playing Lost in Time, a first-person adventure game released by Coktel Vision just after they were swallowed up by Sierra On-Line. In 1993, the original floppy disk version was released overseas in two parts, but here stateside, it was released just as one game. Later CD releases with enhancements came the next year, but holding with blog tradition, I’ll be playing the version that came out in 1993.From the back of the box: Lost in Time is an “Interactive Action Adventure Movie” that “offers suspense, romance, and inquiry into the meaning and nature of time.” We will be visiting France and the Carribean, and in different times, including the present day (1992, based on the manual), 2092, and 1840. Well, that sounds interesting so far. Amongst the other reviewers, there was a positive attitude as well.
Simpsons did it. Or, at least, Robert Zemekis did.
Jumping in to play a game I’ve scarcely heard of before, I was curious why I hadn’t heard of it before. Well, it seems that there wasn’t much coverage in the places I tended to get my new games news.

First, Questbusters, my favorite magazine of the time, never even mentioned the game. Not even in their annual CES reports of what the game companies were doing. In early 1993, they covered two Coktel Vision games in the same issue, so it’s not like they weren’t on the radar.
Even from this small clipping, you can see it was being overshadowed by another game release.
Computer Gaming World never reviewed the game when it was first released, instead waiting until the CD-ROM version was released the next year. At that time, they gave it a few lines, on page 34, buried in a list of, frankly, more appealing CD releases. Based on the review (and the price), the only advantage to the CD version was having less disks. (I understand that the CD version does have more cutscenes and other improvements, such as voices in some releases, but it just wasn’t clear from this review.)

More amazingly, Sierra’s own advertising juggernaut, InterAction Magazine, didn’t get around to “reviewing” the game until Christmas of 1993, pushing both the DOS and CD releases. On page 30. In an issue that started off with features of, in order: Police Quest: Open Season, Quest for Glory: Shadows of Darkness, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, Leisure Suit Larry 6, and Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist. Just maybe, it had trouble sharing the limelight with these other titles.

So, I don’t feel bad about never hearing about this game at the time. But, if I had, my next step would have been to check out the demo. Perhaps a download from the Sierra On-Line BBS.
If you think Gen-Z doesn’t understand payphones, Computer BBSs are really going to be tough to explain.
So, if I had downloaded the demo (or gotten it from a magazine or the like), here’s some takeaways I would have had: They must have kept Jan Hammer after PQ3 and hid him in a cupboard at Sierra, because this music seems ripped from that game. The sound effects? Classic Sierra, although, truthfully, most Adlib/Soundblaster games sounded like that at the time. (Heck, even the Intelivision had sound effects at the Adlib level in 1980.)

So, without further delay, let’s step into this world.
Not the most in-depth intro I’ve encountered
First impression: this feels like an arcade game from 1983. The title screen in just one screen, and stays visible for just a few seconds. Trickster noted in his review of Emmanuelle that he had about .0047 seconds to screenshot the title screen; since then, they’ve improved, and I had about 1.68 seconds. Certainly, not enough time to read all the names, but did anyone ever do that? (Except in the first Leisure Suit Larry game, when it was just the name Al Lowe repeated over and over...)

From there, it goes straight into the game. No introduction. So, I’m going to hit reverse and do something we used to do in the old days of gaming: RTFM.
Thank you, MOCAGH, for preserving documents like this for us. Seriously.
The manual is just a few pages, but details the interface, gives a profile of the main character, and a dossier on the criminal we apparently need to catch.

The English in this manual is rather good, with just a few choices of terms or grammar that seems off. The description of our heroine, Doralice Prunelier, shares many of my own traits. I also prefer “spicy hot dishes”, playing Scrabble, and share a passion for old American TV shows. They mention MacGyver as one, and based on the comments I’ve encountered about this game, I’ll need to be a fan of it as well.

Curiously, a trait of hers mentioned is that “she touches everything, but does not take the time to examine things more closely.” This is not a promising attitude for an adventure game ego to have; fortunately, I control her, so I will have to try to overcome her limitations.

The manual also gives us an overview of what we are going to experience in this game, on behalf of our unknowingly being used as a tool for the Space-Time Police:

“...the events that lead to the arrest of Jarlath Equs, who was responsible for stealing a valuable sample of the element Americium 1492. He hid the radioactive material in the past, endangering the equilibrium of the time continuum. For this reason, the Space-Time Police were assigned to handle the case. The disks enclosed with this manual will allow you to relive this mission as Doralice Prunelier. She is a woman who was selected without her awareness by the Central Computer of the Space-Time Police because of her historical-temporal ties with Jarlath Equs.”
After clearing your head, this is what you see
The game starts with a .0047 second screen dissolve as you clear your head, and become aware of yourself on a ship. A quick check of the interface, by bringing the mouse cursor to the top of the screen, shows the icons visible in the manual.
Dear diary...
The notebook appears to be a diary of sorts. It shows my current thoughts, but as I haven’t played through, I don’t know how often it changes, grows, or so on. Something to watch for.
The future is unwritten
If you turn the page on the diary, there’s a blank page for you to add your own notes, and a handy pen has been included. (Guess we got our money’s worth for this $39.99 game.) This seems to match that of the previous game, Ween.
I’m not playing with a full deck
So, there’s a hint system in this game, and I’m not 100% clear on the limitations. There are Joker cards, and there’s a limit, but is it a limit per game, or per puzzle? From the manual: “There are a few ‘jokers’ available in various places throughout the game that will give you some hints if you are stuck. You are only allowed to use three.” My goal is to not use them, of course, but I’d still like to figure it out.
The map screen brings an overview of all the places we have been and can go, but at the moment, it’s just the one room. Still, some nice details here, such as the sound effects in the background and the flow of the water past the ship.
An early start on my day off.
The options menu has two choices, a toggle for the music, and an info screen that tells me the current time, how much time I’ve spent in the game, and my completion rate. The timer will be helpful for the blog, of course, although I wonder if gamers of the time felt pressured by it. So far, I haven’t been given any indication of a time limit to the game. I’m also blissfully unaware of how easy or hard it is to die in this game, so there’s a lot for us to learn together.

So, let’s test out the interface a little. I see a stool in the room. I click on it, and see a close-up.
Not very interesting. I click on it again, to see if it does anything.
Hey, it has legs, why can’t it walk?
And I see the underside of it. Looks like a nail. I click on the nail, to remove it.
I’m resisting the urge to make an inappropriate joke right now, Al Lowe style.
Well, that’s not working, so I click my right mouse button to bring up my inventory. I have something there that should be useful.
Could someone please explain to me why this young lady is walking around with pliers and acid?
I click the mouse on the pliers, which changes my arrow mouse pointer into the inventory item. I click it on the nail, and it’s removed. The nail is now my active inventory item. If I right click, it gets put away.
Doralice the Explorer is being a little snippy with me.
So, this is a good place to pause, and ask you to wager on the score. Also, many reviews and commenters have described the puzzles as having been “obtuse” or “illogical” or “bizarre”. So, if there’s any bets to place on puzzles I’ll be stumped by, feel free to undermine my confidence with a ROT-13 wager.

The last games by Coktel Vision played on this blog were earlier in 1993, being Ween: The Prophecy and Gobliins 2, earning scores of 48 and 44. The interface is certainly a descendant of that from Ween, which earned a rating of 4 from Alfred n the Fettuc, so it will be interesting to see how it has evolved since then. Other Coktel Vision games have ranged as low as 15, but never higher than 48. And this game shares the lead designer, Muriel Tramis, with that trainwreck of a game, as well as some of the successes as well. The reviewers have been from both sides of the pond, so I dare you to guess how this country boy from upstate New York will score this game.

Session Time: 1 minute (well, actually, 1 minute and 13 seconds. But who’s counting?)

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There's a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introductory post, it's an opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that I won't be able to solve a puzzle without putting in an official Request for Assistance: remember to use ROT13 for betting. If you get it right, you will be rewarded with 20 CAPs in return. It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw.


  1. I will guess a rating of 40.

  2. Is the game a sequel to Fascination, or an unrelated release that just happens to feature the same lead character?

    On first impression it seems like it's on par with previous Coktel Vision games, but I'll guess it's a slight improvement and go with 52.

    I'll try and dig out and post the review from my old issues of PC Format magazine.

    1. This game is kind of weird, it has the same protagonist, but to my knowledge doesn't share anything else to my knowledge. So kind of. Then it has a sort of sequel in Urban Runner: Lost in Town, which the two were intended to be part of an anthology series, I guess, but I think they sort of backed off from that.

    2. Note that it CAN logically be a sequel to Fascination, because the ending of Fascination erirnyf gung nyy bs gung tnzr jnf whfg n tebhc npgvat rkrepvfr, yvxr gubfr Ubj Gb Ubfg N Zheqre tnzrf be gur zbivr Gur Tnzr. Fvapr vg jnfa'g "erny" va vgf bja havirefr, vg'f rnfl gb unir n frdhry.

  3. I'll guess 55. From what I remember the issue is less the puzzles and more the not great 3D and lack of environmental feedback. I may play along, depending on how the current missed classic I'm working on goes.
    I do note, from when I played it a long time ago, that there should be an intro before you get to the ship, which I guess was added for the CD version, and the music, well, the music from the demo, sounds like it was made by the same guy who did the Ween soundtrack.

  4. I'll guess 54. I love a good time travel story, but I also suspect the puzzles might bog things down a bit. Looking forward to following this one! I never did manage to finish it, back in the day. I own a copy, so if I can get it working I might try to play along, too, but given how much difficulty I've had with keeping Gateway 2 working, no guarantees.

    1. It's supported in ScummVM, so that is always a viable way to play without too much stress.

    2. I note that ScummVM doesn't necessarily improve the game much over the DOS version. If you use the CD version, you're getting the voices and no text whether you like it or not. I also think it might have a few new glitches compared to the DOS version, one item I was supposed to get was invisible before I picked it up.

    3. I haven't looked at the CD version in any form yet, I don't want to do that until after I finish. I've tried the floppy version in both ScummVM and DOSBox, and there seems to be little difference except that running it makes it a little less fluid and smooth. I have a spare Pentium laptop somewhere around here, I might try running it on there just to see how it works there, so I know which emulation is closer to the original.

    4. Edit: Running it in DOSBox makes it less fluid.

  5. I remember that I have played "Lost in Time", but I don't remember anything else about it.

    Which is probably not a very good calling card for this game. Let's say 43.

  6. Everyone seems to be guessing high, so I'll guess low with 38.

    The time travel aspect made me think of TimeCop but that was released the next year (based on a 1992 comic, wikipedia tells me). Time travel is a pretty common theme in games I guess, so I dunno if I can claim that the mid 90s were all about time travel but I'm going to anyway! :D

  7. I've played some of it recently. I can't imagine anything higher than half a century so I'll go with 45

    1. I don't know why this was posted as anonymous... Probably I messed something while posting...

  8. Bigfluffylemon1 July 2023 at 07:52

    Like the reviewer, I never came across this one. I'll take 46, based on nothing more than other posters' guesses :)


    Daedalic Entertainment are closing down their development studio after the disastrous release of Lord of the Rings: Gollum, and will be a publisher only from now on.

    Gollum was a game that the studio were completely unprepared to make and the results speak for themselves, but nobody wanted to see it end like this :(

    1. Not trying to be harsh, but... That doesn't have anything to do with graphic adventures, Lost in Time, France or The Adventurers Guild. ;)

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Deleted my previous comment because I read it back and realised how unintentionally condescending it sounded!

      So I feel the news I posted is quite relevant here. Daedalic have been one of the primary developers of point & click adventure games over the past decade, so seeing them shut down is fairly big news for our little community :)

    4. Daedalic did adventure games too (Deponia might be the best known), so I'd say it's definitely of potential interest to the usual crowd reading this blog.

    5. Remember, we don't have a forum here, so the comments serve that function. The more adventure-related comments on the posts, the more attention the blog gets, and that can only help grow our community.

    6. Sorry guys! I didn't know this study was related to adventures. I even looked at their game list and couldn't identify any graphic adventure, but I guess I'm not into modern graphic adventures enough to be able to do so.

    7. That really sucks, I might not have played anything from them, but I really hate to see any adventure game company go under. Did they ever do any 3D games before Gollum? Because if the pictures I've seen are anything to go by the 3D looks like the spiritual successor to those crappy 3D movies you could buy for a PS2.

    8. @MorpheusKitami - very little in the way of previous 3D games. State of Mind was a heavily stylised 3D adventure, but they were largely known for their gorgeous 2D art. It's one of the reasons why the announcement of the Gollum game was so bewildering. It was obvious that this was outside of Daedalic's wheelhouse and it quickly became clear they had taken on something they couldn't handle.

    9. This is indeed sad news. I only played one of the Deponia games and it was really on the classic tradition of point & click adventure games, with gorgeous art and pretty difficult puzzles. And even the spanish voices were good, which isn't that common

    10. not even the same group by the time Gollum came out -- by my understanding everyone involved with point and click adventures was already gone

      Düsseldorf and Munich studios already got liquidated by 2021

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. This is, by far, the best adventure game of Cocktel Vision, but that isn`t a big compliment if you take note that they are the developers el Emanuelle and Bargon Attack....and I don`t count the Goblins series becuase to me those are more puzzle games than adventure games. So, my guess will be a round 50.
    I believe Doralice image is based on Muriel Travis, if you can find a picture of her from the 90s you will notice the resemblance.
    Hey Michael, what happened with Zone 97? Although I never commented, i read all the posts but it seems that the blog is dead now....I hope you return to it cause I like it very much (I also am reading Almost a Famine by some other famed reviewer of this site).
    Regarding the "It`s in too tight", I don`t know what Al Lowe woud say, but I'm pretty sure what Michael Scott would say....

    1. Work messed with me, I kept on putting off writing more for my own blog and didn't realize that it had been so long. After I write the first gameplay post for this game, that'll be something I need to do.

      Regarding the "It`s in too tight", I don`t know what Al Lowe woud say, but I'm pretty sure what Michael Scott would say....

      My caption for that picture was originally going to be: "I'm resisting the urge to make a dirty joke right now, but it's hard." But I felt that might be a tad too inappropriate for the blog. ;)

  12. I don't see "50" guessed so far, so I'll take that. I think this will prove to be a better game than Weem, but not necessarily rating vastly better.

  13. Here is PC Format's review of Lost in Time, from issue 26 (November 1993). Note, there's some very light puzzle spoilers in the side panel, so avoid looking at that if you really don't want any assistance!

    1. Looking closer, there are in fact some puzzle hints dotted all throughout the text, so heads up.

    2. I'll save that for later, then. Thanks.

    3. Whoa, crazy review. They... praise the story? Hate the control system? The great thing about this game is that is a McGyver simulator that controls very fast. It's annoying sometimes but you end up brute forcing it without getting too tried of moving through inventory or stages. And you can't die or get stuck, which was not always the case in 1993 (except in one stupid location in the last terrible part on the tropical island).

      I personally find Coktel Vision first person games control system perfect.

      (I've also read that the 3D was not so good... yeah, maybe compared to Myst? But it looked cool for the time and it still has its charm).

    4. Not spoiling anything from the next post, but so far, I haven't had any serious issues with the controls. But definitely, it will be compared to Myst at the end, if only because they came out roughly at the same time, and the visual difference is noticable.

    5. Haha, okay, I just read the review (except for the spoilers in the pictures on the left just in case I play it again soon). Apparenty they hate the UI because... the inventory items are pixel art instead of digitalized pictures. WTF? Feels more like something one would write in 2015 rather than 1993. Oddly interesting how picky these guys could get in 1993.

      They also discuss how Day of the Tentacle is better than Lost in Time (and by extension all Coktel 1st person games) because there are 12 simultaneous puzzles... Not so sure about that, I humbly believe Lucasarts went a bit overboard with that aspect (I have finished Lost in Time around 3 times, and Day of the Tentacle only 1 partly because of this).

    6. See, I'd argue the simultaneous puzzles is a good thing, because of you get stumped on one puzzle, you could take a break and work on another. But everyone has different habits.

    7. It feels like quite a fair review to me. They point out how strange it is that the game mixes completely different art styles for no reason, without any attempt to make them work together. A very valid issue.

    8. Since the score is close to 7 and they admit the game is entertaining, yeah, the overall feeling could be that the review is pretty standard. However, if you read closely...

      - Let's be serious, it's fine to disagree, but how many people consider the items being pixel art an issue? Honestly, for me they always looked cute. Hey fellow blog readers, could you share your views on this? Am I the only one who thinks the items look nice?
      - The "imaginative story" without any mentions to the absurdness of the plot... Even guys that enjoy Coktel Vision way too much like me can see the problem with that.
      - The linear thing is a common crititicism, so I can't complain much there. I just have a different opinion: I believe it's just a different style, with more localized puzzles so you can't get stuck or crazy too often in a huge environment.
      - But I save the best for the last: mentioning the lack of verbs/actions as a negative... it's pretty surprising. I believe we can agree this is just a different style, and this was already established in 1993. For me it comes off as an excessively closed-minded approach.

      A few weeks ago I read a review of Half-Life in a Spanish magazine...

      (The name of the magazine was Micromanía; by the way, Ocarina of Time and Half-Life were reviewed in that issue and both received a 95, but the cover was for King's Quest: Mask of Eternity, also reviewed in that issue... with a 89. And Half-Life wasn't even mentioned in the cover, lol... Somebody forgot to pay some cash?).

      ...and at the end, the reviewer admitedly tried to find something negative about the game. Somehow he felt he had to force a negative comment in there... So he came up with "enemies don't move until you appear, it would be better to have more freedom".

      The problem with these kind of negative comments about a game is that, okay, so where do you set the bar? If we don't like enemies to be there doing nothing until we get there, then 95% of the games would be boring and predictable. We wouldn't want to play Mario, Zelda, Tomb Raider... Only random encounters in RPG games would be cool and exciting.

      By the way, a digitalized version of the items in Lost in Time would have looked terrible. : P

    9. But I save the best for the last: mentioning the lack of verbs/actions as a negative... it's pretty surprising. I believe we can agree this is just a different style, and this was already established in 1993. For me it comes off as an excessively closed-minded approach

      I'll disagree. One of the major complaints back then and even now in reviews of games was the change from text parser to point and click. If it wasn't handled correctly, the new point and click interfaces made the games too easy.

      LucasArts, with their SCUMM engine, provided a healthy balance, where there were multiple verbs to choose from as you decided how to proceed. But later, as they evolved the interface, first to the coin menu of MI3 and then even the tank controls of Grim Fandango, things got easier and easier. If Grim was a text parser game, you might have needed to type "PUNCH HOLES IN PLAYING CARD" whereas now it's just waiting till Manny tilts his head at the hole puncher, a not-so-subtle hint that it's a usable item, and having the card in your hand when you click the action button. Different level of difficulty.

      In many games, this simplicity made up for weaknesses in a game's design. How many reviewers on this site have gotten frustrated with a puzzle, just to start clicking an item on another item over and over to brute-force it?

      How many mouse pointer games simply have just a generic "use" icon, which replaces about 50 different verbs in a text game? Again, with the right game design, it could still be a challenging, enjoyable experience. But sometimes it wasn't. And that was the complaint then.

    10. I don't think I've ever seen a game where a point and click interface made things too easy. If they did, it was usually off-set by some awful use of hotspots. Because when I think of challenging, enjoyable experiences, I think of Myst-likes, and those are hardly the branch of adventure games that didn't focus on puzzle design.

      Meanwhile, stuffing a PnC interface with commands means that the developers might try to force the use of those commands in some awkward way, or worse yet, forget about them. You don't really need open and close over use, for instance, and switching and push/pull are much the same. If an object has more than three states that would require this command, there are ways to make that work, like even having the player hold down the mouse button to set things.
      This is actually something of an important discussion even among developers, because I've seen some argue, reasonably, why you shouldn't add commands you have no need of. (another, far more important aspect, is the importance of knowing where on the mouse cursor you're clicking with) In that case it would actually go as far as this, after all, why do you need to use people or talk to inanimate objects?

      For the record, I don't think this interface is in any way unusual for Coktel Vision, and I can't say I ever thought it worked against them.

    11. For the record, I don't think this interface is in any way unusual for Coktel Vision, and I can't say I ever thought it worked against them.

      My thoughts were to games in general, and not this one that I'm playing now. I'll be addressing that as the playthrough goes on.

      For my example of the card puzzle in Grim, I think it's still a great puzzle -- you are very unlikely to happen upon the use for that card, no matter how many things you randomly click. (I'm being a good boy here and not spoiling it for the people waiting for our future playthrough)

      But it's not always the case. This also leads to the tangent discussion about whether death in adventure games is a good thing or not. In Grim, you can't die, so if I accidentally punched the holes in the card without knowing I would need to do so, I just solved an eventual puzzle by accident and also have no fear of having made a mistake. There's arguments on both sides of this -- because many people are against dead man walking scenarios, but still a thought.

      These are just random thoughts I'm typing in my cellphone though. I'll try to say them more coherently from a real keyboard soon.

    12. "first to the coin menu of MI3"

      While you can certainly blame MI3 for some other things, that style of interface isn't one of them, since Full Throttle was the first LucasArts game to use it.

    13. I know a lot of text adventure enthusiasts find the universal-single-click interface that eventually became common in adventure games "too easy". It's complicated. I'm hard-pressed to think of a mainstream text adventure that really benefitted from having a huge selection of verbs - usually it serves just as a kind of obfuscation layer: there's only ever one obviously correct thing to do with a particular object (or pair of objects) in a particular context, and the variety of verbs turns it into a "How do I communicate this obvious thing I want to do?" to the game. You do not generally have the converse problem in a graphical adventure - the problem of "I want to interact with this object, but not do the obvious thing. How do I stop it from doing the obvious hting?" - but you might have the APPEARANCE of that problem. That is, it's probably NOT the case that "The correct thing to do with the lamp is to pick it up and throw it through the window, but the game just interprets me as wanting to turn the lamp on", but it is often "The player incorrectly thinks that the thing he needs to do is to throw the lamp throuhg the window and is frustrated that this is not an option".

      Now, there ARE parser games where the rich variety of interactions available on a single object are a core mechanic of the game - Andrew Plotkin is a master of this sort of thing - that would have a very different character if adapted to a single-action interface. But I think they're comparatively rare. Mostly, the role that the text parser or the large verb list plays in terms of puzzle solving is that it makes the nature of the interaction into part of the hidden-information that must be discerned by the player. It places the emphasis on the player's discovery effort on what action they need to take, as opposed to which object they need to use. At best. Unfortunately, for a lot of the golden age of text games, the scenarios were still closer to what happens in single-click interfaces: once you know the right object, it's obvious what the action is, and the hard thing is figuring out how to communicate that to the game.

      For the most part, then, I think that a verb list or verb coin or an early SCI-style take-look-talk-operate interface does little other than create an extra tedious step in the game experience; it creates a false illusion of having rich interactions, when really, every object still only has one "correct" interaction. And whether it's a list of a dozen verbs, or a coin with eight verbs, or an action bar of three, it's still not accomplishing what a text parser does with its "Large number of verbs, not initially disclosed to the player", which is to hide the range of possible interactions.

    14. I'll give a good example of the multiple icons being good for puzzles. Notably, this is a remake of a parser game, but still, the different icons add a layer or two above a basic clicking. This would be the 1989 VGA remake of Leisure Suit Larry.

      Take the doll you find in the penthouse closet. You can take it, or not. You can look at it for a description, or not. Maybe you choose to use the mouth icon on certain parts. Maybe you use the zipper icon on others.

      If this was the interface in certain games, the first click would simply either pick it up or use it, depending on how the designers programmed the click. There would likely be no additional actions.

      I would argue that, at a minimum, you need the icons from the average "coin" system -- an eye (to look), a hand (to take or use), and a walking icon. Anything less makes for less complexity, but also makes it harder for the designer to do interesting puzzles. In the case of LSL1VGA, choosing the different icons and deciding how far to go makes for different scoring (in more ways than one heheh) and a different experience.

      Do we need the separate OPEN and CLOSE verbs from SCUMM? No, I won't argue that. But more than just one click.

    15. I was helping a young (17 y/o) friend play King's Quest 3 and 4 recently, and two things kept tripping him up in the parser: 1. He would try "give y x" (indirect object first) instead of "give x to y" (direct object first), and more frustratingly, could not seem to let go of beginning commands with "use", no matter how many times the game responded with messages like "What do you want to do with it?" and me reminding him every time I saw him start to type such a command that the game probably wasn't going to do what he wanted and he needed to use a specific action verb instead. He said "hey, I'm a LucasArts kid" - that sentence line reading "use x with y" was basically baked into his neurons.

      (I was also really annoyed by his preferring "pick up" instead of "take" or "get", but that's just a style choice, I suppose...)

    16. Actually, I'd note that you could still "use" certain parts of an object even in a single click interface. We'll see something like that here, and the most notable series to use this sort of interface, Myst, does that sort of thing a lot. Leisure Suit Larry is obviously using multiple commands on a single object in a way a non-comedic game wouldn't, much in the same way that theoretically a game where you play as a martial artist who beats up random people can use or talk to people. It's not necessarily something that would apply to the average game.

      Look is also unnecessary if the game has a good enough graphical fidelity to show whatever it is you would have seen with the look command, minus any knowledge the player has that you don't. If one pays attention in Riven, which one would have to be to get that far, it's used to very good effect in a way that would come off as less emotionally important through text. But that's the caveat, having a character with knowledge the player doesn't can be very useful in guiding the player to a solution.

    17. Look is also unnecessary if the game has a good enough graphical fidelity to show whatever it is you would have seen with the look command

      Maybe. Using LSL1 again as an example, when you walk into the hallway in Lefty's, en route to the bathroom, the colorful rose is very clearly there on the table. The magic of using the look icon is to get the funny description about it being there incongruously. It definitely enhances the game. No amount of artistic detail would have the same effect.

      Even in this game, referencing something that is in the now-posted next entry, the poster on the wall. The first time you click on the poster, it mentions something about 1840, but afterwards, it merely repeats a message about hearing something behind it. You don't actually get to look at the poster until you use the sponge on it, at which point you see a low-res portion of it, but nothing useful.

      Even if the poster on the way was higher resolution, I would still want to separately look at it in detail (perhaps to read/re-read it), and a use/manipulate icon to try to pull it off the wall with my hands.

      Maybe it's the way the click is programmed in this game, but I still think having those separate would enhance greatly. I would love to have gotten descriptions of many of the items I've seen, if not for puzzle reasons, at least to enhance my enjoyment of the experience. A game like LSL did that well -- everything you look at has a description, and because of the nature of the game, a humorous one at that. In this game, a sarcastic answer would be more appropriate, but still appreciated.

    18. LSL1's example does work, but if you weren't going for a joke it would be better to show that colorful rose. At which point it really only matters if you like your games to be serious more or humorous.

      But see, when I mean properly, I mean that you wouldn't need to read the poster, it would just be in high enough detail that you shouldn't need to look at it, the game should already be doing that for you. Clicking it would try to take it off, and you would actually hear that something is behind it rather than being informed. Show, don't tell, after all.

  14. What's happening in France reminds me that soon this blog will review Police Quest: Open Season. A good time to re-read this article:

    1. Wow. I played this game back in the 90s in Argentina, being a kid. It was my first (and only up to this day) Police Quest I ever played. Obviously, I didn´t knew who Gates was or the riots that happened in the far away land of LA, but I remember liking the game and the graphics were so realistic. Now I just want to play it again so I can blew the head of Carey as soon as I could. Or even better, wait for Gates to appear to do that.
      PD: Vice`s article have some spoilers about the ending of the game, so the reviewer who is going to play it better wait to read it

    2. That's a fascinating article, thanks. I'd read some of that stuff before, but not with that level of detail. Conversely, I recently watched the fantastic documentary LA92 which goes over Gates and his actions.

    3. Had I seen Open Season without ever having played the first 3 games, I would have approached it differently and probably had a warmer reaction to it. Many of the views held by Gates and others in the police were commonly held at the time by a large percentage of our population, and it's only later that we learned that some of it was not the best way to do things.

      But I disliked open Season just because it wasn't a Sonny Bonds story. I could look past the controversy and play Open Season today, but the change of character is what makes me not want to.

    4. Thanks a lot for sharing this article. While reading this I started wondering what would happen if Williams instead hired Hugh Hefner to make the next Larry game with digitized graphics.

  15. I was incredibly impressed with this game when I first played the CD version. I think it was the first adventure game I'd played with "photorealistic" graphics and voice acting. And a number of the puzzles were deeply satisfying to solve even if they still had a lot of the typical adventure game wonkiness of the era.

    I am quite confident that it has aged poorly.

  16. And Doralice is the same from Fascination ! Its based in a real actress, see mobygames bio

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