From The Adventure Gamer
By The TAG Team
|Luckily they didn’t convert this movie into an adventure game|
Licensed adventure games have appeared from time to time, but this year their number was considerable. We had games based on books (Gateway and Dune, which might also be based on a movie), games based on TV series (Star Trek: 25th Anniversary, Inspector Gadget and L.A. Law Game), games based on contemporary movies (Hook and Batman Returns) and games with main characters lifted from other media (Fate of Atlantis, The Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes and Consulting Detective II, which is also an adaptation of a board game). The usual story is that licensed games are just a way to sell garbage to suckers, but despite the few stinkers in the mix, some of these licensed games were quite good in their own right.
Let’s talk about numbers then. I think for the first time, most of the games we played scored around forties, where you’d pretty much expect most of them to be – vast majority of the games were not awesome, but not that bad either, having some good qualities and some things that needed fixing. The score given to largest number of games this year was 45 (with four games scoring that exact number), which was pretty close to mean (48.79) and median scores (47).
While most of the games in 1992 were pretty average, plenty of the games certainly weren’t typical adventures. We had several games with CRPG elements (Koshan Conspiracy, Quest for Glory remake and Quest for Glory 3), games where combat was at least as important as clever inventory management (Inca, Waxworks and Alone in the Dark), puzzle games (Island of Dr. Brain, and to some extent, Gobliiins) and even adventure-strategy hybrids (Dune and Rome). The results of combining extraneous elements to an adventurish core were somewhat mixed, Quest for Glory 3 being most successful of the lot, while in worst cases hybrids meant just combining two inadequate games into a monster that almost no one would like to play.
The appearance of so many hybrids is just one example of diversification of adventure game business. Not anymore can we speak of Sierra as a synonym for adventure gaming, as their products form a minority of all the games we played this year. An interesting trend is the proliferation of European adventure game designers. Coktel Vision is responsible for a bulk, but they are certainly not the only French adventure game designers anymore. Indeed, we’ve also met our first Italian adventure game (Nippon Safes). Notably we also have our first European adventure game in the Top 10 list (KGB).
Since it’s the end of the year, we will pick some examples of games we’ve played for special awards. But first, let’s cash out the prizes for the Full House Awards.
The last Straight of the year was won with a perfect guess by Laukku, which means he will get the full 10 CAPs reward. No one figured out the exact order of Top 5 games of 1992, so half the prize (5 CAPs) will go also to Laukku, who was clever enough to have the closest guess. And to top it all, Laukku was even the closest guesser in Bottom 5 of 1992, receiving again half the prize (5 CAPs).
Now, it’s again time to award the games with the best and the worst qualities. Majority of the awards have been decided by our group of reviewers, but readers have also had a chance of voting for their favourite.
Let’s start with the best Missed Classic this time. Anyone who has played the game probably won’t be surprised. Yes, the winner is Infocom’s innovative text adventure, A Mind Forever Voyaging, with 20 % of all the votes!
|Serious game of serious issues|
The best game of 1992, as chosen by our readers was, with 50 % of all votes… well, you all guessed it, Fate of Atlantis.
|The reward ceremony is just beginning|
Let’s move on to the awards chosen by our regular reviewers!
5th place – Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes: This is a more than competently-produced game by a first time developer. While they didn’t innovate much, they took what LucasArts and others were doing and proved that they could do it just as well. The journal is an excellent addition to the genre. The game also had a great mix of in-engine work with cutscenes.
4th place – Putt-Putt Joins the Parade: It was the beginning of one of the first successful children’s adventure game series, spawning a number of sequels and making children all around the world learn the wonders of adventuring. It’s still a rough beginning, but rumor says the series will get better.
3rd place – Fate of Atlantis: Multiple paths that we raved about were a great development and would have been excellent if other games followed suit, though we know why they didn’t – a lot of cost for the benefit of a few customers .
2nd place – Lure of Temptress: Both the Virtual Theater mechanic, and the ability to give commands to AI-controlled NPCs were embryonic ideas that would soon become standard in adventure and RPGs. Interesting, even if half-baked, but there was something even more revolutionary around the corner.
Winner – Alone in the Dark: What other choice we could have for the title of the most evolutionary game? Alone in the Dark pioneered the use of 3D models for characters, items and monsters, and spawned a genre of its own.
|No it isn’t! We still have awards to go|
6th place – Chain of keys (Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes): Some of the puzzle chains in the game were a bit contrived. We had to find a claim ticket, to get a box out of a pawn shop, which contained a key to a desk, which contained a key to a lockbox. That just feels excessive, especially as it seems dangerous to hide a key in a pawn shop item and, if you were to do that, why wouldn’t you hide the key to the lockbox instead of the desk? And if it was a mistake that the key was in the box of tarot cards, then we only solved the game because of an excessively contrived coincidence. (Not the only one by far. Remember the key to the room you were in locked in a safe that was mistakenly left unlocked? That was fun…)
5th place – Winning wet T-shirt contest (Spellcasting 301): In order to win a wet t-shirt contest, you have to get some suction cup-covered gloves from Batman and give them to a wrestler so she can win a mud pool fight, which convinces her to participate in the contest in spite of her being flat as a table. Then you have to give some dehydrated falsies to another girl and UPPSSY the wrestler… It is the gloves part the one that we find more infuriating.
4th place – Getting rid of liquour (Lure of Temptress): Having to give the flask of liquor to Luthern in order to empty the flask so Diermot could get the wizard’s transformation potion instead of just . . . .dumping it out was stupid.
3rd place – Getting on boat (Amazon): We are trying to pay for a trip on The Amazon Queen:
- The captain asks what we’ll give him.
- He never tells us what he wants
- There’s no indication we need two things until we offer him one of the things he wants
- Both things we need are easily missed (and we indeed missed both of them)
- Even if we knew we needed cigarettes, opening a random truck door is nowhere near the first place we’d look for them
- Most vehicles are a single clickable item, but that specific truck contains the second hotspot of the truck door
- If we knew we’d also need a nugget of gold the presumably lowly-paid serving boy is the last place we’d expect to get it from.
- We should have still had a few thousand dollars in US currency anyway, but it wasn’t in our inventory any more, just because.
- The captain is planning to sell Maya as a slave anyway so why’s he so damn keen not to let us on the boat – he’d lose her as a slave if we weren’t stuck in an adventure game dead-end. If we offered him everything we had and it wasn’t enough he should have told us he’d let us on for the price of a used jerrycan anyway just so he has a slave to sell
- A gold nugget AND a packet of cigarettes – is that the standard price for a trip partway up the river? – how does he get any business at all?
6th place – Virtual reality (Gateway): Our favorite moment is at the end when the message from the AI reveals that the PC hasn’t returned to Gateway after all. You break the VR again and think you’ve won, and then the rug gets pulled out from under you. It’s a great twist.
5th place – Simbani initiation rite (QFG 3): With multiple ways to complete the tasks, and some portions which rely on the player’s skill, it’s a memorable culmination of several things the Hero has done before, thrown in with some drama in that he’s competing against one of his friends, Yesufu.
4th and 3rd places (tied):
Alien in head (Dark Seed): The first nightmare with the alien embryo being placed in Mike’s head is pretty memorable indeed. It’s a pretty well-known image and quite traumatic. The music adds only to the uneasiness of the scene.
Beginning of Alone in the Dark: The most memorable moment is right at the start, the attic room. It is well-lit, but immediately surrounds you with danger and there’s plenty of things to find. The initial feeling of being able to block out those monsters makes you wonder how much more interacting with 3D objects you’ll get to do, but unfortunately it is few and far between after that point.
2nd place – Laughing gas (Star Trek): Kirk and McCoy are trying to create a vaccine for the Romulan plague and accidentally gasses themselves with laughing gas. (And later, you can douse Spock with a Vulcan equivalent.) They proceed to spend the remainder of the episode laughing their heads off, telling jokes, singing songs, and behaving completely out of character in ways that are hilarious. Fantastic writing in this section, especially as you don’t even need to ever see this segment if you never release the gasses into the air by mistake. But this is still not the most memorable moment.
Winner – Meeting Malcolm (Kyrandia): The greatest moment of the year 1992 was the first encounter with Malcolm: the dialogue between him and Brandon is great and there is even a bit of interaction (throwing the knife back at him) in what is otherwise a cutscene.
|The award is handed out by King Brandon himself!|
7th and 6th place (tied):
Ending combat (Star Trek): We remain unable to win. It’s an arcade sequence where you face off against three ships (a replica Federation starship with incredible firepower plus two Elasi pirate ships that move fast but have weaker weapons) at once and we die very very quickly. Over and over again, we played this mission. That it was the last segment of the game, in the weakest episode, just makes the unsolvability of this puzzle even worse.
Needing a hat to beg for money (Nippon Safes Inc.): We need to get money for a metro ride. The solution is to present a hat a to a passerby that so far in the game has given no indication of being anything more than background scenery. There’s no mouseover text unless you have the exact right item.
5th place – Banishing ghost (Hugo 3): We find banishing the ghost quite troublesome, as the book needed to perform the exorcism is hidden, and nothing in the game tells you that it can be used for that purpose, or that you need a bell and a candle in addition.
4th place – Opening a vault (B.A.T. 2): The final puzzle of the game required the player to solve some sort of logic puzzle to open up a vault. There are no clues what the player should achieve, and due to an invisible timer, every move might end with a game over, which makes even brute forcing the solution an impossibility. Solving the puzzle required a help from a commenter.
3rd place – Cleaning the wall with the cloth to make a button appear (Curse of Enchantia): Nothing makes sense in this puzzle because the items are nondescript.
2nd place – Blutack puzzle (Curse of Enchantia): The most ridiculous puzzle is also quite unsolvable, when you can’t even tell it’s blutack you should be using. But this wasn’t still the most unsolvable puzzle.
Winner – The final chapter of Rome: The game goes out of its way to make the final chapter unsolvable.
- It’s possible to totally miss the dagger vendor in Chapter 1, and even if you notice him it’s easy to dismiss him as the flavour detail of a vendor at the docks while we try to find a way to safety.
- Taking the dagger costs all our money and we need money to buy our passage off the doomed city making buying the dagger a clearly stupid decision
- If we escaped the city but wanted to replay the first chapter to try different things like buying a dagger, we’d lose our saved game because there’s only one.
- In the last two chapters the previous three ways of making money are gone. We can’t loot Egyptian villages, we are not allowed to gamble because it’s beneath our station and we are not allowed to win a gladiator contest because the Emperor competes at every single contest and can’t lose.
- The game has made finishing Chapter 4 without 100 extra gold to spare or a dagger a dead-end with no indication it’s a dead-end.
- The idea of a military commander needing to have bought a cheap dagger back when he was a slave in order to have a murder weapon is absolutely absurd – we even have a slave with a sword in our inventory but can’t use his sword!
|What Rome needs is a dagger – cutting the game disks in half!|
7th place – Elephant puzzle (Hugo 3): We are very fond of the elephant puzzle. It it is a long chain that involves giving some condiment to the natives to get a blowpipe, escaping the witch doctor hut, making a voodoo doll of him with some clay, capturing a mouse in that same hut and shooting the elephant with the blowpipe at the appropriate time after freeing the mouse in front of him so that the elephant can fall asleep in the middle of the nearby river, blocking the water source and allowing Hugo to cross a waterfall below to the magic garden.
6th place – Mathematical puzzles (Star Trek): We enjoyed the number-based puzzles from the second to last section. Having to convert numbers between bases to better relate to an alien culture was a nice use of a science fiction trope in puzzle form. There are so few good math puzzles in adventure games.
5th place – Tape recorder (KGB): Some of the puzzles pertaining to the tape recorder were pretty good. The one where we are interrogating Chapkin and have to trigger the voice-activated playback to distract him comes to mind. To achieve this, you have to first switch the tape recorder to voice-activated playback, but shortly before this scene, when you’re at the hotel, interrogating a prostitute, you’ll accidentally trigger the playback, making Rukov switch it to manual playback. This serves to both set up the puzzle and remind you of the voice activation function
4th place – Finding Atlantis with Plato’s dialogue (Fate of Atlantis): This set of puzzles required us to read Plato’s Lost Dialogue – like telling the boat captain where to go by:
- working out/remembering that Thera was the lesser colony
- take into account the tenfold error mentioned in a different part of the dialogue
- reversing direction because the dialogue is talking about directions from, rather than to, Atlantis.
3rd place – Sense gnomes (KQ6): It was good largely because it had a simple predictable premise which you could link specific inventory items to, even if you found them after finding the gnomes themselves. The only thing keeping it from being amazing is that it’s quite easy if you have the right items – their use is really obvious.
2nd place – Virtual reality (Gateway): The whole ending scene in the VR hell was tightly plotted and finely tuned to be just tricky enough without getting too frustrating. Getting the hydra to multiply and explode the scene without killing you is arguably the best puzzle in the game – but not the best puzzle of the year.
Winner – Trottier ghost puzzle (Fate of Atlantis): We had to use the sheet and flashlight from the hotel room and also the mask from Algiers. But the best part of this puzzle was that we can use either the sheet or flashlight or both of them without the mask to get Trottier amusingly telling us to stop being annoying. But despite the best part being the funny comments, each comment gives us a clue that our disguise needs more to make it convincing.
|The audience is gasping|
4th place – Kirk, Spock and McCoy (Star Trek): The banter between Kirk, McCoy, and Spock was excellent and was true to the tone of the original show.
3rd place – Rolf (Gateway): That crazy old man managed to survive for years by himself on an uninhabited planet and made the best of it by cataloguing the wildlife. Then when the PC shows up, he holds to his ideals even if it means he’ll stay stranded on his planet longer. He’s a little loopy from all the solitude, but he’s got a good attitude and some wonderful one-liners. For instance, after you destroy his raft and nearly go over a waterfall in order to retrieve his cane: “I’ll make me another raft in no time. Then we’ll do it again.”
2nd place – Cast of QFG 3: The writing is great, and even the merchants at the bazaar and the various liontaur guards are unique and well-drawn. Some favorites among the main cast:
- Rakeesh: The grizzled vet who acts like the hero’s mentor
- Kreesha: The only liontaur magician (save for her and Rakeesh’s son Shakra, who lives in Silmaria).
- Johari: Mercurial leopwardwoman who helps the hero achieve peace
- Yesufu: Son of the Simbani leader. The hero’s friend and rival.
- Harami: Thief and honorless one turned hero. Saves the hero’s bacon at the end.
Winner – Malcolm (Kyrandia): Even the whole cast of QFG 3 cannot beat with this guy! Malcolm is a crazy, mean, devious peace of **** that’s only here to kill, laugh and destroy. He’s very close to Final Fantasy‘s Kefka and just as memorable. Both are obviously heavily inspired by Batman’s Joker anyway. The first time we see the jester, he blows an innocent squirrel to smithereens and laughs about it. He’s really just a psychotic bastard as we love them. Forget the third episode retcon (he was tricked all along and is mainly innocent), the Malcolm in this game is every inch evil and loves it.
|Hey, stop the insults, Brandon!|
5th place – Manu (QFG 3): He’s a talking monkey who helps the hero reach the demon-infested Lost City, even though he doesn’t want to go. AND he helps at the very end, filling the part of the prophecy when Harami wimps out. Also: he’s a talking monkey!
4th place – Brain (Inspector Gadget): He is up there for sidekick of the year: you can play and solve puzzles as him, he rescued Penny from kidnappers like seven times, he is a master of disguise, and best of all has a collar with a built-in cellphone. Also pay attention to how he’s usually walking on all-fours when Gadget is around but on two feet when he’s not. He’s subtle! This is even more impressive if you think that Penny is Gadget’s sidekick: that makes Brain a sidekick’s sidekick!
3rd place – Ratpouch (Lure of Temptress): The only useful NPC in the game, and the only one who doesn’t give Diermot any grief.
2nd place – Watson (Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes): Watson was our sidekick through the adventure, although he had much less to do than you would hope. His crowning moment of awesome at the end isn’t even that awesome when you think about it: he stayed behind to try to defuse a bomb and FAILED, only surviving the explosion because he somehow hid in a trapdoor that no one ever saw. Perhaps Watson is an immortal? Even so, there’s an even better sidekick to choose.
Winner – Sophia (Fate of Atlantis): She doesn’t do a lot when it comes to puzzle solving, but having conversations with a sidekick is fun, even if all she does is comment sarcastically on our not knowing what to do next. We liked the back-and-forth banter of Sophia and Indy making fun of each other and enjoyed having her along for the ride and liked it when we met up with her again after her numerous kidnappings. We also enjoyed noticing that the closer we got to Atlantis the more possessed she appeared to be. In New York she wasn’t concerned, but when we were in Crete, Thera or the submarine she was very protective of Nur-Ab-Sal and then got fully possessed in Atlantis’ middle ring.
|Maybe, but you still deserved the victory|
6th place – B.A.T. 2: The game’s not a complete disaster, and especially the game world is intriguing, as attested by many commenters who remember just moving around the planet, admiring the surroundings. Still, Koshan Conspiracy really fails as a satisfying adventure game, being more of a conglamaration of very non-adventurish minigames.
5th place – Inca: Adventure game parts are OK, but these are so few and short. Instead, majority of the game is spent with repetetive and aggravating simulator and action sequences. To top it all, the progress is made almost impossible, because there is no saving, but only codes used for checkpoints that are too rare.
4th, 3rd and 2nd places (tied):
Hugo 3: We think it is an improvement for the series, but the graphics, the parser and the simplistic puzzles will put it at the bottom compared to other games in the same year. It is simply too old for 1992.
L.A. Law: It barely qualifies as an adventure game, for starters. But its biggest sin is not being fun. The time limit mechanic was poorly implemented, and success at trial boils down to doing myriad things in the exact right sequence. There is an unforgivably slim margin of error, and the only way to figure things out is to replay the cases multiple times until you figure out the sequence. This is not fun, nor is there anything humorous, interesting, optional, or remotely entertaining to keep you playing.
Rome: It’s not even primarily an adventure game and is much more frustrating and repetitive than fun.
Winner – Curse of Enchantia: We think there should be a special place in hell reserved for the developers of this game and their own purgatory would be to spend eternity playing their game over and over again with the music cranked up to 11. Hell, it may just be the worst game of the year… or the decade… just warn the population about this game! The people deserve the right to know!
|For once, a review that’s on the nose|
6th place – Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes: The well-polished graphics, story, and setting of this game places it in the top-five of all time (so far). It’s a game that’s more fun than you think it should be.
5th and 4th places (tied):
KGB: We think the quality of the story and setting, and the virtually flawless interface should put this in the top 5.
Quest for Glory 3: It is a, for the time, technical tour de force that captures the vibe of an old adventure pulp/serial that perfectly blends RPG and adventure game elements. It has a satisfying, logical story, no wacky unsolvable puzzles, fantastic music, great writing and dialogue, and memorable characters.
3rd place – Kings Quest 6: It does many things well and is a major step forward in the King’s Quest series. But it still doesn’t hit the excellence of the better Lucasarts games.
2nd place – Gateway: It’s only handicapped a little bit by being a hybrid parser game, but it’s also a polished game with a dramatic story, good puzzles, and a fun cyberpunk soundtrack. It easily broke the top 10 for the blog when the score was established, so it should also be in the top 5 for the year.
Winner – Fate of Atlantis: We already gave the game our highest score ever.
|It would have been a bit embarrassing, if the game hadn’t won this award|
Those were the TAG awards for 1992! And just like last year, you’ll have a chance to guess the TOP 5 for the next year. If you can state which 5 games will be the best games of 1993, you’ll get 10 CAPs. You won’t have to know the exact ratings the games will get, but you do have to get the exact order of the top five games. If no one pinpoints the exact order, persons with closest guesses will get 5 CAPs as a reward.
You’ll also get to guess the BOTTOM 5. The rules and the prizes are same as in the TOP 5, but you’ll have to guess the five worst games of 1993, in the exact order.
And to top it all, you’ll also have a chance to compete for the FULL HOUSE. Guess the exact order of all the games of 1993. If you get them right, you’ll get the TOP 5 and BOTTOM 5 awards, but also 2 CAPs for each game not in TOP or BOTTOM 5. This year getting FULL HOUSE will thus mean a prize of 90 CAPs. Again, if no one gets the exact order right, persons with the closest guess will receive half of the total prize (45 CAPs).
For ease of reference, here are the games we’ll be playing in 1993, in the order they will be played:
- Ween: The Prophecy
- Gobliins 2: The Prince Buffoon
- The Journeyman Project
- Call of Cthulhu: Shadow of the Comet
- The Legacy: Realm of Terror
- Eric the Unready
- Space Quest V: The Next Mutation
- Veil of Darkness
- Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist
- Dare to Dream Part One: In a Darkened Room
- Fatty Bear’s Birthday Surprise
- EcoQuest II: Lost Secret of the Rainforest
- Return of the Phantom
- An American Tail: The Computer Adventures of Fievel and His Friends
- The 7th Guest
- Putt-Putt Goes to the Moon
- Simon the Sorcerer
- Blue Force
- Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle
- Leisure Suit Larry 6: Shape Up or Slip Out!
- Dracula Unleashed
- Gateway II: Homeworld
- Lost in Time
- Pepper’s Adventures in Time
- Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: Volume III
- The Beverly Hillbillies
- Sam & Max Hit the Road
- Black Sect
- Wayne’s World
- Return to Zork
- Cosmic Spacehead
- Companions of Xanth
- Star Trek: Judgment Rites
- Kronolog: The Nazi Paradox
- Daryl F. Gates Police Quest: Open Season
- Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers
- Innocent Until Caught
- Isle of the Dead
- Alone in the Dark 2 + Jack in the Dark
- Inca II: Nations of Immortality
- Quest for Glory: Shadows of Darkness
- The Legend of Kyrandia: Hand of Fate
Please make your guesses for TOP 5, BOTTOM 5 and FULL HOUSE in the comments for this post. The guesses should be made before the first two final ratings of the year 1993 are published. The prizes for the winners will be handed out at the end of the year 1993.
By taking part in the FULL HOUSE competition, you’ll also be automatically competing for STRAIGHTS. After a sequence of five games from the main game list has been completed, we’ll look at who has guessed closest the order of those five games. If someone got the exact order, she’ll be awarded 10 CAPs, otherwise, those with closest guesses get 5 CAPs.
Let the contests begin!