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I’ve had a few goes on this one. It’s playable but didn’t exactly grab my attention. If I had to choose between Boloball and Minesweeper/Solitaire then there wouldn’t be much in it. It’s a game in that mould really so might appeal to non-gamers more. The computer did pose some challenge at first but is highly beatable once you know the rules. It’s the sort of game I might have got on a magazine disk, played for 20 minutes till I beat it and then instantly forgot about it. Definitely not a title I’m going to be going back to.
I’ve spent quite a bit of this week working through every level of Ugh! I don’t want to have to say these words but it was definitely better on Amiga if only for the sound. It runs nice and smooth on PC anyway and kept me playing for a good few hours. I was arguably enjoying catching up on podcasts at the same time more than playing the game itself but it’s an easy game to relax into. It doesn’t have enough variety to it really, you’ve pretty much seen it all once you’ve done the first few levels. Weather gets introduced eventually with strong winds making flying extra tricky but it’s only used a handful of times. I did like the diving aspect that was in quite a few of the levels and the snoozing dinosaur that blows you around. It needed to introduce some more elements like this to vary it up.
I really dislike the menu and password system. It takes far too long to get back into the game every time you restart and the ambiguous font combined with misspelled passwords caught me out a few times. It even still plays the intro every single time so you always have to skip it. Minor niggles aside, it’s easily the third best game for me on the list after Lode Runner and Alleycat.
Alleycat is one of my favourite early DOS games and the only one of these 6 that I know really well already. I played this loads on my first PC. Good arcade games were kind of thin on the ground when you had an 8088 CGA machine. This just plays and controls perfectly, there is loads of variety with all the different levels and the difficulty ramps up at just the right rate. It was famous for years for being so well programmed that it would run at the right speed no matter what machine you ran it on right up to the end of the DOS era with PII’s. Don’t know which version people are playing but if you want a few more colours and sound channels, there is a PC Jr release. This is one of the handful of PC Jr games that won’t run on a Tandy 1000 but there is a patch to fix that too if needed.
I have no idea where monks and bomb fuses come into this but I haven’t read the backstory yet if there is one. I thought I’d take each game one at a time so I’ve spent a good while on Lode Runner this weekend. It seems really simplistic at first but the depth to each level trying to figure out some of the tricks you have to pull off to reach everything without getting trapped is surprising. I’ve spent a good number of hours on it and have only made it through the first 40 out of the 150 levels so far. Progress is getting quicker but there is an absolute ton of gameplay in that 40k of code.
It’s not a game I can spend ages on at once, I’m getting a bit fed up after 5-10 levels but being able to pick up at any level you like it is great for short blasts. The enemy movement is a bit odd and you have to try to figure out it’s quirks to beat a lot of these levels. E.g. if you are on a ladder underneath an enemy they will keep climbing away from you for some reason. My only complaint is the controls can be hit and miss on the ladders so I don’t quite time it right and keep on running instead of climbing. It’s a really great game for the the early 80’s anyway. I could probably play this one on it’s own for most of the month but I’d better try some of the other games as well.
I’m not much the wiser but I’ve finished Time Gate. It was essentially another Alone In The Dark with all the technology being the same except you can hold shift to run and there are now FMV cutscenes. It STILL had the bug on fast machines making it impossible to push things around. It beggars belief that this hadn’t been fixed on the engines 4th outing.
As for the plot, I can’t honestly say I know what was going on even now I’ve finished it. Story telling was not exactly a strong point of the AITD series and seemed to get worse as they went on. In essence though, you play the descendant of the last of the Knights Templar who starts the game being attacked by some sort of dark knight who you quickly dispatch with an axe you happen to have embedded in the desk for just such an occasion. Your fiancée (who hasn’t been introduced) is apparently missing and you are told to go to the museum if you want to see her again. So you go there, get threatened by a villain called something like Wolfram and ultimately get pushed down a well, at which point you levitate out of it in a load of light and wake up as your descendant back in the 1300’s. Cue adventures in an ancient monastery trying to rescue said fiancée who it turns out is also in the 1300’s somehow. There are evil monks, demons and ghouls around trying to get in the way. You have to restore jewels on the tombs of some dead templars so their ghosts can give you useful objects. You get to transform into an ass-kicking, gold armor wearing eagle at one point. It’s odder than ever and makes precious little sense. The puzzles are no better but there are hints and you are told if you aren’t close enough or at the right angle which makes the trial and error a whole lot easier.
I can see why the subsequent sequels never happened after this one I have to say. It’s really showing it’s age and the first Alone In The Dark was so much better years earlier. There is no atmosphere at all and the formula is getting old. There have been some minor changes to combat with the addition of blocking by holding control but in the end the combat is worse than before mainly because of the lack of range weapons in the 14th century. The whole interface has been made graphical but while it may look fancier it is way more clunky than the original. If you liked the Alone In The Dark games, then Time Gate fits the bill for more of the same but it needed more innovation and better design. I think on the whole, we can be glad that the engine got retired at this point.
That’s enough Alone In The Dark for me for one month so I’ll stop here rather than moving on the The New Nightmare.
I think Fade To Black has a worse reputation than it deserves these days. It was one of the very first 3rd person titles in a 3D environment, a whole year before Tomb Raider. It was really ambitious given the technology available and very well received at the time. My main gripe with it was how often you would see those death FMV’s. It’s a good job they were short.
It’s a common misconception but Flashback isn’t actually related to Another World. Another World did get a sequel on the Mega CD called Heart Of The Alien which is punishingly difficult and had no involvement from Eric Chahi.
I’ve been playing loads of Alone In The Dark 3 all this week. It’s set in a ghost town in the desert where a Western was being filmed but all the crew have vanished. You basically have to go in there and save Emily Hartwood (from part 1) who is now a Hollywood actress apparently. I’ve been really enjoying this one. I’ve cheated like blazes using a walkthrough if I’m stuck for more than 10 minutes but the puzzles haven’t been quite as out there as part 2. The game tends to lock you in to smaller areas at a time so even if the puzzles are equally crazy, trial and error can usually get you through.
Part 3 still has a lot of combat but the difficulty has been dialled down and there are even options as to how easy you want it to be. The same techniques of staying too close to be shot work here so the combat is as silly as ever. After two games I’m even getting used to the funny angles. The open/search command from part 1 has been brought back again. There is also a small section where the jump command appears from nowhere just like AITD1. The whole game is much closer in spirit to part 1 but still not exactly scary. It does make up for this with the size of the town which is way larger than even part 2. This was the first AITD to be designed exclusively for CD and it shows.
I’m not exactly certain what is going on in the plot of this one. I’m never sure whether something has been lost in translation with these games but they aren’t exactly forthcoming with the storyline. It doesn’t matter a whole lot really, you just have to deal with a load of undead cowboy gangsters and get past locked doors. There is a really strange section where you die, get reincarnated by a native American as a cougar and have to kill werewolves by covering one paw with tar and silver nitrate. Survive this to bring back an eagle statue and you get to literally rise from your grave. It’s followed by a Prince Of Persia like puzzle where you have to drop your gun, and run into a cowboy mirror image of yourself to merge into one and then play the rest of the game in full cowboy attire. It’s all very odd really and probably best not to think about it too much.
I’m loving it anyway. My nostalgia for this series is very strong so it may not hold up as well for others but it’s a better sequel than AITD2 if you ask me. It doesn’t matter so much playing it now but it must have looked a bit dated by 1994. The engine hasn’t been touched as far as I can see so it doesn’t look any better than AITD1. It even still has all the same bugs on faster PC’s.
I’m going to give Time Gate – Knight’s Chase a go after this. It’s largely forgotten these days but it was supposed to be a whole new trilogy using the AITD engine. Said engine was looking even more dated by 1995 so it didn’t sell well. I’ve had it sat on a shelf since the early 2000’s so this is the excuse to play it at last.
Another tip more along the technical support lines. The game is very sensitive to what speed it’s running at and this includes that double tap to run. To get it to work at all, I had to slow down my PII by using moslo. It’s still temperamental even then. I assume this is an issue in DOSBox as well.
If you are trying to run the floppy version, it has similar problems with the adlib sound in that you either won’t hear any at all, or it will drop notes depending on just how much faster than expected your machine is. It worked for me once I slowed my machine down enough.
I saw your request for RPG suggestions on Twitter. There are so many! I don’t know where to start. From my point of view, I’d love to go for one of the classics I’ve never played. Betrayal At Krondor would fit the bill perfectly. Or failing that Might and Magic 1 or Wizardry 1 would be great. There is a tool available to add automapping and other bells and whistles to those last 2 which makes them way more accessible.
I’d also quite like to play Superhero League of Hoboken or any of the gold box games. The same goes for Darklands. RPG’s are always such a time investment that there are loads of classics like this I’ve never got around to having a go at.
Origin games are kind of my specialist subject and you wouldn’t go far wrong with an Ultima. They did a few more obscure RPG’s in the 80’s if that’s what you are after. 2400AD is a fun little game in the Ultima style except with a sci-fi instead of fantasy setting. The best non-Ultima RPG they did was AutoDuel which is a car combat RPG based on Steve Jackson’s Car Wars in a Mad Max setting. Autoduel is a bit of a classic for it’s time. I’d definitely recommend it if you don’t mind a 1985 game.
The Legacy is an underlooked gem. It’s a Lovecraft inspired first person horror RPG. Would be a good one for an October.
I could keep going but I’ll stop at that.
The 5 from Telltale only really add up to the one game but it’s clearly way too much gaming. I’m not going near another PC game for at least a week.
I’m with you on Monkey Island 2 yet I remember absolutely loving it when I first played it. It was probably the first Lucasarts adventure I played so I’m wondering if that coloured my opinion. A couple of the puzzle solutions are so stupid that the answers are jokes in their own right. The only way through those is trial and error really. This sort of design is really unusual in a Lucasarts game and I can’t think of any other examples outside of MI2.
I’ve made it through the rest of the Monkey Island games so I may as well give some opinions on them. Escape From Monkey Island used the Grim Fandango engine which meant 3D characters and Alone In The Dark style tank controls. This interface is fairly horrible with Guybrush bouncing around all over the place when you try to walk down narrow paths. It was a massive step back and clearly designed with consoles in mind at the expense of PC gamers. As for the game, there were sections I liked but a lot of the jokes were painfully unfunny. I really didn’t enjoy the whole tourist resort theme – it just didn’t feel like a Monkey Island game any more. The game as a whole was maybe slightly above average but a huge step down from previous entries. It’s arguably the worst adventure game Lucasarts ever did, the only competition being Labyrinth and I have far more sympathy for a game that had to run on a C64. MI4 was the game that killed off adventure games at Lucasarts and we should probably be glad Sam and Max 2 and Full Throttle 2 never happened on the whole.
I really enjoyed Tales of Monkey Island on the other hand. It had the most plot of any of the Monkey Island games, some great puzzle design and a lot of fun new characters. I’d go as far as to say that out of the 5 games, this was the one I had the best time with. A large part of that was not knowing it inside out already of course. I just wish Telltale were still doing these sorts of games. They were my favourite developers for a while in the noughties but I got bored with their modern day interactive movies years back.
I have to say I find it hard to believe just how little I remembered about these last two games given that I’d played them both before. This may as well have been the first time so that’s one advantage of a dodgy memory.
I had a very quick look at the Secret Of Monkey Island remake. I don’t know what anyone else thinks but I absolutely hate the new character designs. The originals almost had an oil painting look about them in closeups, I don’t know what Lucasarts were thinking about with these angular cartoon versions. The backgrounds look nice enough at least. I wasn’t entirely convinced about the voice acting either, I think it always works best in games where it was designed that way from the start. It seemed quite stilted and unnatural to me but I didn’t play very far. Maybe as a new player the remake is an improvement but I couldn’t see it myself.
That was way too many games in a short space of time anyway. The constant rain recently was a large factor but if I ever try something like this again, I’m pacing myself a bit better.
I’ve played way too much Monkey Island to be able to offer a first impression any more. I’m amazed how well it still holds together though. The humour is still fresh, the puzzle design spot on, the graphics have aged well and the music is as catchy as ever. It’s a game where everything seems to have gone right. About the only criticism I have was the amount of silence there was in the soundtrack which surprised me a bit going back. The version I was playing didn’t even have most of the sound effects if you were playing with MT-32 music.
I’ve moved onto the sequels and while it’s still a classic, I enjoyed Monkey Island 2 less than I expected. Guybrush was a less sympathetic character and there seemed to be a good deal less humour with more high adventure in its place. The production values were certainly better with a full iMuse soundtrack and more animation. It could just be a case of playing it to death years back having spoiled it for me these days but I think it lost a little of the charm. Some sections were quite dark really so maybe it was going for the moody second entry in the series like Star Wars and Indiana Jones. God knows there were enough references to both of those elsewhere. Some of the puzzle design was definitely worse than anything in #1 (e.g. the infamous monkey wrench).
I might even prefer Curse Of Monkey Island which isn’t something I expected to say. The humour fell flat on a few occasions but it had enough memorable sections to make up for it and the graphical and audio overhaul were fantastic for the time. I particularly loved the sea shanty bit and the banjo dueling.
Playing all these games back to back, it’s noticeable how inconsistent they are with the characters and world. Personalities change every time and each sequel appears further removed from the original. Monkey Island was vaguely true to the historical period of the game but by Monkey Island 3 we’ve got beach clubs with cabana boys, amusement parks of death with roller coasters, radar guided cannons, etc.. It isn’t just the graphics that got more cartoony as the series progressed.
I’m on to Escape From Monkey Island now which is going to take far longer as unlike the first three I don’t already know how to solve all the puzzles. I did play it back in the day but only once and I’ve forgotten it all. I’m hoping I like it more now than I did then but I’m not hopeful.
Yes, I played Ecstatica at the time but haven’t been back since. I think it was basically the work of one person who had spent years on it. Those sorts of games tend to end up being a little odd and this was no exception. I can’t say I remember much now other than a werewolf wandering around that made life a misery. I don’t think I got too far without a walkthrough. It did have a really unusual elipsoid based engine where everything looked a bit like balloon animals. There was even elipsoid nudity which got it a bit of press back then.
I’m way more familiar with Alone In The Dark. We seem to be on a roll of some of my favourite games from back then at the moment. Definitely looking forward to going back to this series again.
I used to play this one loads on my “trusty” Sinclair PC 200. It’s a bit of a classic, another one of those games that seemed to come with DOS as it was on every PC at the time. Definitely wouldn’t mind revisiting it.
I’d like the idea of doing a month with a few smaller CGA games such as this. Another two I used to play loads were Flightmare and Sopwith which were great fun at the time if a little difficult to control. I’d be really curious to see what people make of Flightmare, it has you controlling from above and side on simultaneously which takes some getting used to.