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Hah, that’s incredible with the surgical gloves and mask – I can only imagine someone walking behind you while you’re playing it in full gear, saying “It’s only a computer virus, you idiot”…
I was going to follow along with a walkthrough to help me through the details of the operation, having failed to tell what I was meant to be doing from the manual, but it sounds like that would spoil the experimentation that’s meant to be part of the game. But what a bizarre way to require you to experiment! In Richard Cobbett’s article on the games, he mentions that they were thought up by a surgeon, and it’s odd that they would have paid so much attention to the realism of the operation procedure but then throw you right in with “real” patients before training you. It’s almost like that Surgeon Simulator game with the floppy physics, just blundering into doing a heart transplant somewhat correctly. https://www.pcgamer.com/saturday-crapshoot-life-and-death/
There’s a TADS text adventure I had ages ago called Rematch, which was famous for manipulating the parser to make the solution to the game a hugely complicated sentence – but on every action you take that doesn’t solve the puzzle, you die and have to restart. (Walkthrough to working it out is here: http://mirrors.ibiblio.org/interactive-fiction/solutions/rematch.txt ) I remember people saying that it was an amazing thing technically, but that they didn’t like the exploration being so punitive, feeling that you had to die many, many times to continue. Life or Death feels a lot like that – you’re encouraged to experiment, but doing so feels like you’re failing at the game miserably. It’s so strange that they didn’t build up to practicing on dummies and so on before then expecting you to perform operations on your patients. (You send them away with a referral for kidney stones, you don’t attempt to vibrate them out of their kidneys manually!)
What an amazing collection – I’m going to enjoy reading through these again! I’m pretty sure I have some more early issues of PC Zone, though my parents’ house is 3000 miles away from my current location 🙂 I’ll have to remember the next time they take a journey over to us.
“Wargames used to be about as much fun as putting your underwear between two flowery baps, slapping on some mustard and scoffing the lot”. My god, I miss these magazines 😀 Are these from your own collection, or are you looking at some online archive for them? There must still be a large box of them at my parents’ house, I wonder if they have any that haven’t been made available yet…
It’s interesting how Chris Anderson in PC Zone spends two pages absolutely lambasting it and then awards it an 82 – spending most of the review talking about the presentation rather than any of the gameplay! Although that’s something that I’d meant to mention as a reason I remember this game so well – the narrator with his veins audibly popping out of his forehead at the sheer determination with which he’s doing his “English” accent.
Fantastic memories nonetheless 🙂 I wasn’t able to identify what felt awkward about groups of units, but you said it – you can’t tell which health bar belongs to whom! A lot of my success in this game has just been in building an overwhelming force and sending them all out at once (or at least nine at a time).
There’s a weird feature in the manual where you can sort of recall unit groups – if you click on a unit while holding Alt it will select everyone who was in the last group in which this unit was selected. This is pretty awkward and doesn’t make things as easy as using the number keys to set unit groups, which I think was only added in the later battle.net version.
I went through the human campaign a few years ago (but I remember very little about it) so I’m doing the orcs this time!
I definitely agree that it takes ages to get up and running – I wondered if it was just me, but chopping lumber in particular seems to take an enormous amount of time until you have a small army of workers. And in the orc campaign, it seems like you often start off using more food than you’re actually growing, so you have to spend your first resources on about four farms before you can really get started.
Comparisons to Command and Conquer are definitely inevitable – something I was surprised by in C&C was that it had a lot of varied missions beyond “destroy the enemy base”, like the one where due to budget constraints you have to clear the area using a bunch of mouldy old tanks and a repair bay. Warcraft’s missions, despite having slight variations like “destroy the castle and get to this rune stone”, seem to be fairly repetitive like Pix says. Once you’ve got your armada sorted out there’s little the enemy does to stop you beyond throw its starting units at you.
It’s interesting that “fog of war” is an option in the preferences, rather than a cheat code! I prefer to play with it off, C&C-style, but I imagine the game would be very different with it on – usually, I spend a while at the start of the mission flying a scout around to reveal most of the map, but that wouldn’t be as useful with the fog turned on.
I’ve noticed that I tend to take a very long time to really get a base going compared to other RTS games – that hasn’t mattered so far in the campaign as the enemy tends to leave you alone before you start exploring on the early levels. What’s your build order like? 🙂
Thanks! I had a bit of illness just after posting that video, but here at last is the commentary as to what I’m doing and how I’m skipping pieces of the levels… I had to talk faster than I had anticipated.
I think Jordan Mechner threw that in as a follow up to a feature in his previous game Karateka – https://tcrf.net/Karateka_(Apple_II) – where he went to the trouble of providing an entire second copy of the game modified to display upside down for the sake of a joke! That’s dedication 🙂
Agh, those biting heads. I never found a reliable way to swipe at them with the half-butterknife that you’re given throughout most of the ruins either – timing gets you so far, but then they’ll hover just out of your range and then swoop in to kill you. They’d be far more enjoyable if they didn’t stay out of range, didn’t have a chance of biting off about four health bottles at a time, and ideally didn’t exist at all.
Prince of Persia 2 really had an avalanche of new ideas – it’s interesting that none of the obstacles from the first game are repeated, not even the basic shrubs of spikes on the floor – but not all of them really worked. And the controls are definitely more sluggish, I feel it in both the jumping and the swordfighting… it’s odd that they didn’t seem to base the game on the perfect groundwork of the original.
So I said the next phase was levels 7-9, but I went ahead and finished the whole thing – after you’ve got through those, levels 10-12 are nothing! I finished the game in 12:20.58, counting from the moment the “Level 1” text appears on the screen to the cut to black after completing level 12c. For comparison’s sake, my best human time for the game is 14:24.32, over two minutes slower – an eternity in speedrunning terms! And I’m sure that there’s more that I can go back and enhance (not to mention the emulator was a bit choppy at some points as well, not helping the final time).
Here’s the final rendered TAS from the DOS emulator, and I’ll do a version with commentary soon.
(WARNING, the video begins with quite a loud and alarming emulated PC speaker beep)
I always found it strange that Jordan put the potion there where you didn’t even need it, when it could have been at the top of an impossible drop instead!
The green potion on level 9 is a great surprise moment as well, but I’d completely forgotten that it existed because you never need to go there!
From my initial exploration into the TAS community, they seem very friendly and willing to support newcomers 🙂 I got some great advice from slamo in this thread that helped speed up my workflow: http://tasvideos.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=20296
And with that, I’ve been able to complete levels 4 to 6 in two minutes flat. (You can use Shift+L at the title screen to enter a practice mode that can bump you up to level 4, but sets your timer to just fifteen minutes – this is supposed to make the game impossible to complete, but I think otherwise! I’m counting this as a legitimate way provided by the game to “complete” levels 1-3 instantly 😉 )
It’s odd instructing a computer how to play a game rather than directly doing it yourself – you lose a lot of the feel of the controls and timing, so I was surprised that some parts actually felt more difficult than they would have been if I were doing a human speedrun through levels that I’d memorized years ago. But having the ability to save a state and restart definitely let me try some guard-skipping tricks that I wouldn’t have risked if I were doing it manually.
– At the start, there’s a guard on the other side of the portcullis to the right who usually just turns around to face you if you venture on to that screen. But by moving into the screen in a specific way, you momentarily convince him you’re close enough to be worth pursuing, and he obligingly steps forward on to the tile to let you in. This lets you avoid going along the real route to the left, down and up again.
– Having done that, you then rudely teleport past him! By jumping forwards when you’re a very specific distance from the guard, you can avoid his swing and dodge past him. Then, once you’ve bopped him once, you have a window to turn and run.
– Jumping forwards is significantly faster than walking. I’m almost sure I could have fit in one more jump on my way to the right, but the presence of the pit and the spikes mess the rhythm up a bit.
– As I go back to the left after opening the exit, you see a “Sound off” message (which is really turning off the music, not the sound). Disabling the sound saves a few seconds at the end of each level, because otherwise the game’s theme plays and the timer is still running!
– No jumping when going to the right at the start, because it would make the Prince too quick and he’d hit his head on the portcullis.
– Tempting the guard down from his platform lets you take advantage of a bug. By coaxing him over to the left and entering combat, you can back on to the screen to the left and the game will think you’re beyond the portcullis. Otherwise you’d have to get here by going up and over, fighting another guard.
– Then a run to the left, alternating between fighting and jumping. The guard skipping trick doesn’t work when you’re facing left – you have to stop, draw your sword and then swap positions before making your escape.
– The spikes are arranged really awkwardly here, very hostile to continuous running and jumping!
– The midboss of the game, affectionately known as Fatty, is anticlimactically skipped in the same way as any other guard!
– You’re meant to attempt to jump over to the Shadow and try to climb up only for him to close the door on you, but the level ends as soon as you leave the bottom of the screen so you can just do it yourself 🙂
The next phase will be levels 7-9, which are much longer and involve more fights with guards, so those will be more difficult – oddly, the game’s levels get much easier again on 10 and 11. Wish me luck 🙂
Finished it last night! With 104 races, which seems a bit inefficient of me. One of the things I didn’t appreciate above in how the game is balanced is that the longer you spend messing about in the easy levels, the greater a lead the difficult opponents can build up so you create more work for yourself catching up.
This time around, I chose to spend a long time in the easy races to build up these bonuses and having a strong chance of winning $3000 or so per race with an extra bonus every three races (for destroying other cars and having a winning streak) rather than going for the Medium races, but that set my score back quite a lot and I had to really grind at the end once I had the best car to reach the top of the league.
Yes, the Windows update is definitely a lot easier to get going – Death Rally runs under DOSBox with some configurations because the 3D Realms Anthology version ran fine, but even then sometimes the music went strange.
Repetitive though it is, I’m very into this game again 🙂 Just having some races occasionally and increasing your stash is enjoyable. The only thing I can’t get over is how laughable the “edginess” is – for example, the inclusion of heroin delivery by a pitch-shifted dealer that sounds like what I used to do for my games when I was twelve and didn’t have a deep enough voice 🙂
I started it up again and played much longer than I’d intended… which is probably a good sign 🙂 I forgot another tactic that I discovered in my earlier exploration of the game – I find that it’s worth moving up to Medium difficulty earlier than the game recommends (it asks you for the level 3 car, but it won’t actually stop you if you try again after getting the warning). The prize money is much more worthwhile, even if you only finish in third.
Yes, once you get over the hump of moving away from your original Volkswagen from about 1947 the game gets easier, if I remember right 🙂
My own strategy was what Wan mentioned – to hang back at the start and let the other cars beat each other up for a bit, then go for the easy kill at the back so that you guarantee yourself at least a bit of income from finishing in 3rd place. The racing mechanics never really seemed like they had a whole lot of depth to me, beyond “hold forward and try not to crash on the corners”, so it’s hard to talk about tactics for driving apart from learning the courses as you go.
I grew up with most of the Apogee catalogue but didn’t encounter this one at the time – I played it for the first time for a video that I did a couple of years ago, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kG8chy-kRRg#t=19m10s . I ended up really enjoying it and playing all the way through to the end! The 3D Realms Anthology came with the original DOS version at the time, but the Windows-ized version that comes with Steam is functionally identical and works a bit better.
It feels a bit short because all the tracks are theoretically open to you from the start and there isn’t much in the way of feeling like you’re progressing, just the same loop of signing up for a race. But once you’re over the initial hump of difficulty and have the hang of the game, it’s satisfying to work your way up the ranks. It definitely wouldn’t have flown as a “full” game even at the time, I think (it was considered a budget title if I remember right), but it’s a fun enough diversion.
One tip that I remember seeing somewhere is to always pick the Duke Nukem portrait for yourself, because this takes him out of the game and he’s the hardest opponent by a mile!
Thanks for scanning those! I grew up with PC games magazines and really miss the tone of humour they had in them, particularly the irreverence of PC Zone. I don’t think it’s a style that survived in the Internet age of game journalism 🙂
Interesting to see such a spread of scores, as well – I agree with the observation that the game isn’t really as edgy as it would like to be, it’s more like just an Apogee game that’s been allowed to stay up past its bedtime and is trying to be a bit darker without really knowing how.
From my first impressions, the general feel seems quite like a different Silmarils game I had called Le Fetiche Maya, where you were basically dumped into the environment (a set of locations connected by driving sections) and left to work out any and all objectives for yourself! Though admittedly I got the game from my uncle and I didn’t have the manual, so that could have hindered me a lot.
Blimey, this definitely throws you in at the deep end – thanks for the quick guide, because without it the game just presents you with this unfathomable screen to click around on! Definitely another case where a read of the manual is going to be needed 🙂 Silmarils (and more generally, French) games seem to be very like this.
Something I’ve thought might be good as a starting point for each month is a few links showing people where to get the game – one possible place is https://archive.org/details/msdos_Transarctica_1993 . It looks like you can also get it in the Silmarils Collection as a download from Amazon – I found a download of the American version Arctic Baron elsewhere, but it suffers from a weird problem with the mouse where sometimes it’ll jump into the corner of the screen.
Will update once I’ve worked out what I’m doing at all 🙂
I think I may have hit my wall on level 4! I’m pretty much stuck in a siege where I own the three rightmost castles on the map – I have just about enough forces on hand to fend off the armies of ten Cyclopses that keep coming my way, but not enough to make any headway in forming a counterattack.
It’s interesting you say that because I’m on level 4 of the campaign now, playing as Knights, and I’ve run into a difficulty wall where I had to admit defeat and start the level again – I spread myself too thinly with units that get torn through like paper, and I’ve been pining for access to the more powerful units of the Warlock class! Does the increased cost of the Warlock’s army make it impractical to build it up in the early game?
Aha, yes – I learned about the Trolls’ unique advantage, I had the feeling they were stronger than they should be based on the numbers 🙂 Like I said in the other topic, it’s amazing how many nuances there are to the game – it starts off looking overwhelming, then seems quite simple (buy units, send them off to fight), then becomes more subtly in-depth again.
That Acidcave site is incredibly informative! (I was hoping for more detailed campaign strategies, but the conversations are cute too 🙂 ) I love reading about the in-depth quirks of games like this – the battle system has more nuances than “move and stab” the more I look at it, with some units being less mobile because they’re large and cumbersome, and ranged units being unable to fire if there’s an enemy next to them – it makes positioning and the order of your units on the map all the more important.
And it’s great when makers of a game go above and beyond what’s necessary – there’s no reason at all to have drawn a separate banner for every single combination like that, but it gives a lot of flavour 🙂 (I’d also have liked more distinct looks for the heroes rather than just one per class, but often the amount of memory you take up with extra sprites is a concern for DOS games of this era).
Finished level 2 now (had to leave it for that night, but I was only a couple of turns away from discovering the last enemy castle) and have gone through 3 as well where the objective is to find the buried treasure! I spent a while conquering the east side of the map where I started, then recognized the location of the treasure before I’d really uncovered the X by finding enough obelisks, and just diverted all my attention to excavating the whole place for it as the enemies went on a shopping spree through my undefended castles (I found it on the sixth turn).
It’s nice that so far, the missions alternate between having a specific objective and just a fight to the death – it keeps them interesting.
After diversifying a bit in the second scenario map, I’ve discovered that phoenixes are like a flying pink steamroller – if you’ve got about seven of those then you can absolutely waste everything in a pack encounter very easily, and they’re very powerful against enemy heroes as well! They’ll definitely be on my list of things to prioritize in the future.
This game is absolutely wrecking my week. I’m supposed to get up in about six hours and drive to daycare and I’m absolutely hooked on finishing this second scenario (good to know that the others are just the same maps played on different starting points, by the way – that’ll save a bit of time.) I think I’m quite close! I think I’d mistakenly thought this game was an RPG before, where it’s really more like Civilization (especially in the temptation to take “just one more turn” about fifty times in a row). My weakness is definitely in defence – it’s only recently that I’ve thought to actually leave troops behind to defend a castle and keep a hero around specifically to keep my flags planted on the mines, rather than just leaving things alone and hope nobody barges in.
After struggling back and forth a bit, there seems to be a point where you reach critical mass with your castles and income (currently 10,500 gold pieces a day) and can just buy up everything, after which the game gets a lot easier… having a hero act as a taxi had occurred to me as well, to ferry troops out to the combat zones instead of returning to heal up, interesting to know it’s a viable strategy 🙂
I’m still in my first steps with the game, but the tutorial mission starts you off with a barbarian army and I quickly got to appreciate the Trolls a lot 🙂 They’re strong, they hurl big boulders at the enemy… they’re very expensive, though.
The Hydra was a massive headache for me during that mission, I never got hold of one myself but whenever I encountered one it seemed like a massively overpowered scaly wall of doom that would trundle round and absolutely slaughter everything. I’m looking forward to seeing if the impression is the same the other way around… it’s interesting that you’re finding uses for units that you hadn’t originally realized!
The way that each class has one more unit type than you can fit into an army reminds me of Etrian Odyssey, in an odd way – I read that the director of the game chose a party limit of five specifically so that it would always feel you were missing something and want to experiment with new combinations. It’s also interesting that you get a morale penalty for having too many units of different classes – I think this is something I didn’t realize way back when I briefly played HOMM3! What that does is discourage you from stuffing your army with multiple fliers, or ranged units, or whatever, by reaching across classes.
Additional note regarding the sound – I honestly wandered around my house trying to work out why the heating was making a distressing noise until I realized it was the bizarre “wind” sound effect in the background of the game! It’s so repetitive and mechanical…
The project manager, with the underlings doing the actual work 🙂
I knew roughly what this game was going to be like because I’d played Heroes of Might and Magic 3 many years ago, from a CD borrowed from someone. My overall impression was that I hated it – my primary memory is of fumbling around, entering combat, the computer declaring I had no morale and skipping all my turns, and then having its units slaughter me instantly!
So I started HOMAM1 up this evening and to be frank my first impression was “Oh my god what on earth is going on”. The art style is very, very busy, with a veritable avalanche of things going on on-screen even when you start a scenario (the grainy look of the terrain contributes to that, along with the bold lines of the sprites) – the view and lack of labelling on the buttons contribute to make something that looks incomprehensible.
Fortunately the manual is generous enough to provide a tutorial, although it cuts off just when you’re about to find your feet – http://replacementdocs.com/download.php?view.538 . With its help, I was able to just about understand what I was meant to be doing – there definitely seems to be a lot to discover, and even the combat doesn’t seem as insurmountable as it once was. I think that one of the major things that it explained was to get into the habit of holding down the right mouse button on things to get more information – in a modern UI, this would just be done by hovering, and that action hadn’t occurred to me.
I definitely agree with a few comments above – the combat grid is very vague and it’s unclear where units are standing, partly due to their different sizes… on that subject, the unit graphics are just all over the place and look like they’ve been drawn by at least two separate artists without fully agreeing on a style. That, along with the odd collection of sound effects, reminds me of early independent games which just used whatever sprites and WAV files they found lying around 🙂
I think tonight I’ll do something very nostalgic, and read the manual in bed – I used to do that with all my DOS games in the early 90s, because reading them was so vital to discovering things that weren’t made obvious by the game itself!
A well-earned victory 🙂 Sounds like it was a struggle! I noticed when I went through that the kill frenzies really don’t give you a lot of points, even with the multiplier.
I definitely agree on the aiming problem, too – later in the game you’re asked to go up against whole gangs on foot, and the only way to fight effectively is by doing this strange dance where you run perpendicular to them, wait for them to fire and then turn around spraying your machine gun during the pause. In addition to that there’s a definite limit to the number of directions a gun can fire in, leaving large blind spots!
I found myself wanting strafe controls so that I could move with WSAD and aim with the mouse, although I admit that swapping between the two would be awkward when you’re getting in or out of a vehicle.
I’ve been too much of a perfectionist so far, trying to get that score multiplier as high as it’ll go – but I did discover one more example because of a game bug 🙂
There’s a mission in Liberty City 2 where you’re meant to follow and then kill two rival gang heads (whose names I can’t recall) – I assume that someone was meant to get out of the car I was following, but instead it pulled over to the side of the road and just sat there glumly even when I shunted it a bit to try to get it going. With no other options, I chose to just blow it up – and my contact was annoyed that I didn’t take the chance to get them both, but I got a Mission Complete anyway.
It just occurred to me that I had no idea what the game’s title meant! Over time it’s just become a game name to me 🙂 But yes, like kdrnic says, seems like “Grand theft auto” is the American term for motor vehicle theft. I’m not sure what the distinction between theft and grand theft is, or why the words are in that order instead of the more natural “grand auto theft”, or why they call them autos and not vehicles, even though I’ve spent eleven years in America now.
And yes, the car names are also plays on real life ones 🙂 Once again I knew nothing about cars when I played this the first time, but looking at them now… Mundano was a nickname for the Ford Mondeo in the UK because it was a safe, common, boring choice of car. Jugular must be Jaguar… Porka is Porsche, Stallion is Mustang, Impaler would be the Chevy Impala.
Yep, I think that GTA24.EXE or the Windows one (if I can find the right compatibility settings to get the performance up) is looking like the best option.
Incidentally I love that the 8-bit and high-colour versions look so different – the GTA8 ones aren’t just low-colour variants of the tiles, they’re a completely separate tile set and it almost looks like a different game. I’ve heard that this is because as the graphics evolved during development, they just sort of forgot to translate their new graphics back to the GTA8 version 🙂
I know what you mean and I felt the same way about the PS2-era games – they felt pretty awkward to me. I enjoyed GTA4 and 5, but in different ways from the original top-down games – I suppose in a world where open sandboxes are commonplace, they stand out less than they used to. In the late 90s, being dumped in a city and left to cause havoc was a real novelty 🙂
This will sound a bit “my uncle works at Nintendo”-ish, but an old school friend works with Rockstar now and has a credit in Grand Theft Auto 5, he’s one of the people who wrote the tools for graphics/texture artists and modellers to import their stuff into the game world. We’re very proud of him 🙂
Those are great 🙂 Something wonderful about the modern era is just how many of these mysterious creators behind the games we loved are just… there and contactable, now. The first PC game I ever played was an ASCII platformer called Jason Jupiter, and I was delighted when its author Neil Drage responded to a post I’d made about remaking it!
I hadn’t realized at the time that the Hugo games were the only shareware graphical adventure series around – that surely boosted their visibility. It’s hard to remember that people could stand out on the shareware libraries then, in contrast to the age when 500 more games are released on Steam every week.
What I found most interesting about David P Gray is the way that despite being from the UK, he uses a lot of American language (the infamous “bung” from the first Hugo game, for example). It turns out that like me, he emigrated from the UK to the US fairly early in life, though I have actively resisted picking up any of the local terms here 🙂
I had a go at Episode 2, and like I remembered, the presentation improves a bit 🙂 There are now backgrounds other than plain grey – they’re a bit monotonous but they’re there, and there are places with simulated lighting cutting through darkness. In general it feels more interesting than episode 1. It also has the feature of some levers that the overly curious can pull in order to lose the game instantly – a trap I fell into in the early 90s 🙂
But the die-and-retry style of gameplay really ramps up as well, mostly due to the new enemies – there seem to be far more with projectile weapons, and your speed of movement (particularly that short delay before you jump) makes it very difficult to get out of the way. Some of the enemies are also ridiculously fast and difficult to see coming – the puppies (I don’t know what they are but that’s what I always called them – they’re small, fast and blue) are very erratic and unpredictable, and they don’t hurt you but they stun you for long enough to be zapped by a nearby enemy. The lack of look up/down controls hurts as well, as you can often drop down straight on to enemies that you couldn’t even see.
Shareware games used to advertise each other all the time, as corny as it looks today – it was the way to get the word out before the Internet as we know it 🙂 You might notice that the game “The Fight For Justice” advertised in the episode 1 help file – which they just made up on the spot, nothing about it had ever been coded – eventually became Quake!
The shareware titans even put friendly jabs at each other in their games 🙂 http://legacy.3drealms.com/fanstuff/keenstory/page6.html
I never got very far in Fez, but on a quick Google, it looks like it does 🙂 And from what I saw, Fez’s “fox room” – the giveaway room that tells you the whole alphabet – is more creative, just hinting that you have what’s needed to work it out instead of telling you outright.
Yes, it’s weird how you can see the approach to game design carrying through Keen to Wolf3D to Doom despite the very different atmosphere 🙂 There’s a lot of exploration and side areas that aren’t necessary to complete the game… and just like Doom, Keens 1 and 4 at least have whole hidden levels that are accessible by finding alternative exits from normal levels (although I think this had been done by Super Mario by then, so they may have got it from that in turn).
Metroidvania games definitely involve going back and forward and not in a linear progression, but I think there needs to be a continuous world (no individual levels) and skill-gathering to really qualify. (The pogo stick might count 🙂 )
The installer was such a highlight – I’m disappointed as well that they didn’t catch on! The Windows 95 versions had bland InstallShield setups instead and I really missed the atmosphere of the DOS installer.
Great podcast, by the way – it kept me company on a three-hour drive yesterday and I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on more games 🙂
Ah, I grew up with Apogee and id’s games, so there’s so much I can say about this one 🙂
I’m trying to think back to the first time I saw episode 1 – it was after I’d already seen episode 4, so I remember thinking it looked a bit primitive as well. This is particularly true if you compare it with something like Sierra’s King’s Quest V, which came out the same year and looks absolutely spectacular. Shareware games lagged behind the curve for a long time until the landmark release of Doom, and Apogee would stick to EGA for a shockingly long time – well into 1992 at least. It’s important to remember, though, that this was the first side-scrolling platform game that the PC had ever seen – nothing approaching a Mario-style platformer had been possible before id worked out how to massage the graphics support of the time to do it efficiently, so this was a major milestone. (But yes, fair point that this was already a whole five years after Mario.)
From what I remember, episode 2 was the best out of the trilogy, with new elements like turning the lights on and off affecting the behaviour of enemies, and puzzle-like parts with clearing bonuses to route the little robots you can stand on to where you want them to go. The level designs really are punishing throughout, though – just one slip (or running into a really fast enemy you couldn’t see coming like the ninjas or jumping Vorticons) can set you back an awfully long way, and for less frustration, the game could really do with mid-level saving (something that was added in Goodbye Galaxy).
The quality noticeably drops in episode 3 and the levels tend towards very large copy and paste mazes – see the cave levels in particular here, and the way that the large apartment-style map’s upper left portion is mistakenly completely walled off! It seems like they were in a rush to finish it.
But still, it’s always going to be one of those games I admire from childhood, even though it might have rough edges today 🙂