With just one more week left to go at the IF Comp it seems about time to reveal my favourite title from this year. It is a game about childhood and imagination with a very creative touch to it. And as with all great text adventures it features a really solidly implemented game world with a rather responsive parser. Mr Creosote already took a look at it at the beginning of the competition and seemed to be quite fond of it, too. The game I am talking of is The Impossible Bottle which I wholeheartedly want to recommend. Especially to any gamers who are still a child at heart.
From the admittedly somewhat archaic genre of text-based adventure games, we jump backwards in time even further. Remember phone phreaking? Yes, those of you under the age of 50 probably don't. Wouldn't you just love to learn more about it, maybe even relive those times in interactive fashion? Then NeuroDancer probably isn't for you. Although it does try to make this past culture appealing in the most simple of fashions. If you decide to give it a go, remember: keep your hands where everyone can see them (as illustrated).
Staying on the subject of interactive fiction, Bureaucracy is a game I recently revisited. This being a game with a troubled, well-documented production history, there is a lot to discuss extrinsically as well as trying to see what effects show intrinsically. It's a game I really like, though honestly, what sticks to my mind is the good scenes only.
While the IF Competition is still running, let's also take the opportunity to look back at how similar genres were handled in our core decade – the 1980s. Passengers on the Wind showcases many of the issues found in interactive narrative formats… to this very day. On top, it had an even harder nut to crack, that of turning a plot written in traditional format (in this case a comic book) into something interactive.
The IFComp is still under way and it is closing in on the half time. Seems like they expanded the schedule a bit this year: You can play and judge until the 29th of November this year. Maybe this is due to the fact that there are just so many titles. Which might make you wonder which ones to chose from? Parser or Choice-based? Horror or comedy? Short or long?
Well, so how about a recommendation? Today’s review is about a game that was kind of a pleasant surprise to me. It is from a genre that feels to me like it has been done to death by now: Zombies. And in a way it is extremely topical, something that I do not overly care about. Yet it manged to grab my attention right from the start and was a lot more fascinating then I would have expected. Some thoughts on the reason why can be found in our newest review for Alone.
By now I have tried around a dozen of the IFComp’s games and I am quite happy with most of the candidates. As usual quantity and quality varies from title to title, luckily none of them were utterly unplayable (so far).
On the contrary, you can find a couple of really interesting stuff in there. Like Tavern Crawler, a nice little role playing gem, which proves yet again that you do not need a multi-million dollar budget to get your players stuck to the screen. Coming up with an unusual idea and implementing it in a solid way might do the trick just fine.
Picking up the ball of the IF Comp, I couldn't leave Herr M. completely alone with those more than 100 games, of course. The Impossible Bottle, the first pick I made, turned out to be a lucky one. Humorous, nicely plotted, demanding… what more could you ask for?
The 26th Interactive Fiction Competition has started and as usual it is offering a plethora of text based games. With its wide variety of formats and genres it caters to a whole lot of tastes. Whether you prefer your interactions typing, clicking or tapping, or your texts thoughtful, fancy or plain: You will find some pearls in there. Though admittedly there will be a bit of trash too. Which ones which? Well, it is time to find out!
That is why I have already started this year’s article and look and behold: There is even a first review! So far the games look very promising and I have to admit that I am a bit hyped.
If you want to get involved yourselves (again): All it takes is picking up five of the games, playing them and voting for them on the competition’s website (just follow the link in the article above). And do not forget to drop us a line or two afterwards.
Do you remember the beginning of Nightmare on Elm Street 5, where this guy is sort of merging with his motorbike into a bio-mechanical horror? Of course not, who remembers Nightmare on Elm Street 5? Though for reasons which should be apparent, playing No Second Prize reminded me strongly of this scene in the otherwise forgettable movie. Does this make the game forgettable as well? Oh well, never judge a book by its cover.
Beneath a Steel Sky actually received a late sequel not too long ago. Not the worst of reasons to re-visit the original. It's been many years and what I didn't remember at all anymore is that it's a rather short game by the standards of its time. A definite plus considering the changed player expectations of today which certainly I can't claim to have passed by me without effect.
Has it really already been 10 years since Dennis Hopper passed away? Then again, he did have a long, distinguished career. Well, part of it was distinguished. By the 1990s, he basically took any work which offered a solid paycheck and openly admitted it. This lead to a detour into the world of computer and video games. The downpoint of which must have been his appearance in Super Mario Bros.. He was also features in the "interactive movie" genre with almost alarming frequency, though in most cases, it was just a little cameo to later be able to print his name on the box. In case of Hell: A Cyberpunk Thriller, it's mostly his distinctive voice; his facial features can really only be recognized by those with previous knowledge that he is in the game.
Photocopied manuals and manually reproduced floppy disks sent by post are not necessarily covered by the law of product piracy, but were a widespread form of software distribution from the 1980s to the early 1990s. Besides the colourful sales shelves in the shops the constantly growing supply of bedroom programmers found this unusual way to the customer. I will have a deeper look at what they sometimes found in their letterboxes by the example of a late work called Taam.
In my scouting for games deserving a fresh look, I stumbled upon Dark Seed once more. Since all those old screenshots were actually bad (downscaled so that all text was unreadable), I played through it again to replace those as well. The result of putting this fresh impression into words is now online.
Time for some meta news. We've been doing some internal restructuring deemed necessary due to the growth of the website. It is no longer this small thing it started out as. The amount of games we cover these days could be perceived as daunting by newcomers. So we have taken action and added some simple tools to help you manage.
First, you will undoubtedly have noticed the changes on our front page. Above all, this website is about human-created contents. So you may be interested to learn more about the heads behind it all. Those people who, apart from creating contents, also keep things running behind the scenes – our staff.
From now on, anywhere on the site, staff-created contents are marked like this. This is to distinguish them from user-generated contents.
Though, of course, we also thrive from user-generated contents. Hence, right on the front page, users who have provided specifically noteworthy contributions to the community will also find their profiles regularly highlighted. This is not just our "thank you", but from your visitor perspective, this is also to enable you to find contents which you may be interested in. Have a favourite reviewer? There he or she is, through the profile, you can easily jump to a list of his or her reviews.
Talking about discoverability, browsing the complete list of games is probably not the default mode of choice anymore. Takes much too long. So we're testing an additional approach which we call staff picks. Those are random games taken from a pool which our staff considers particularly noteworthy. This is not a quality seal for the games presented there, but those are games where we feel our coverage is pretty good and you could go out with it a little richer.
Last, but not least, those of you who are logged in to their accounts now have the ability to bookmark specific game pages (icon right next to the game's title). You can use this in various ways: remember some items for later reading, mark all your favourites for repeated consultation etc. You can access your personal bookmark list through the user icon on the top right.
As always, although we see the raw access numbers, additional feedback what helps, what you're maybe still missing, is always welcome in our forums.
Is there something like an overdiscussed game? Personally, these days, I tend towards answering this with a yes. At some point, simply everything has been said about a work of art and subsequent treatments can only reproduce the already known and agreed. Thinking of Civilization, do you really want to read again how due to the limited battle system, a phalanx can defeat a tank with a bit of luck or how the city micromanagement brings everything to a grinding halt towards the end? No, I didn't think so. So instead, I wrote down my personal experience with the game and what it meant to the computer gaming hobby overall.
It doesn't always have to be salmon and champagne that feeds the dreams of the discerning gaming consumer. Spurned by many as average, inconspicuous bread-and-butter games unfortunately remain trapped in anonymity from the start and fall into oblivion. Nevertheless, these preparations out of the fashion sparkle with their very own charm. I have played the taster for you and will tell you if the Shoot'Em-Up called Hypsys still passes for edible.
Time flies! It certainly feels like yesterday that this game was released to great attention of interested media. Hibernated 1: This Place is Death (hinting at a sequel already in its title) is one of those recent games which got a boxed release and was hyped quite a bit. Some time later, the bare game file, minus box, was released online for free. Does the game hold its promise?
Carriage rides instead of races in high-speed bolides, smoking a pipe instead of steaming Schischa, a corpse with an unknown murderer instead of 100 corpses that you just mowed down yourself with a shotgun: Such a thing is supposed to be entertaining? I unpacked my magnifying glass and took a closer look at this case. And found some very remarkable traces in Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments.
There is just no way around Wing Commander. It belongs to those with legendary status which changed the face of everyone's favourite hobby. First by showing that the days of the bedroom programmer were over, and the age of corporately produced games was upon us. Second, it established the IBM PC – previously regarded as a pure office computer – as the predominant games platform for the years to come. Therefore leaving a huge footprint and legacy on the whole industry.
P.S. For the true historians among you, we also have the versions for Amiga, CD32 and 3DO, called Super Wing Commander.
Those initiated in classic detective fiction will already know what this is about. It's The Hound of the Baskervilles, the most famous case of everyone's favourite detective, Sherlock Holmes. Want to re-experience it? Here is a way you've never probably never seen.
Don't we all feel like this sometimes? Tired, without drive and the only "activity" imaginable is sitting down in front of a screen? If only there was ever anything good on… Enter Mad TV – the classic business simulation enabling you to do better. Make TV relevant again in this age of streaming. Up to the challenge?
Rambo? Cool, let's get shooting! Yes, this game does have a lot of shooting. And stabbing. And throat slitting. And fistfighting. Nevertheless, it's not exactly what you think it is. The secret is right there on the title screen already. Yup, you read right. It's "interactive fiction", i.e. a text adventure. Seriously? Seriously. But don't despair, it does have a lot of shooting.
Empire Deluxe – reading my own old review, honestly speaking, made me cringe in embarassment. The good thing is that I'm still regularly playing it anyway, so making new screenshots and sitting down again to write down how I feel about it now was not even a huge effort. Not sure there is still a big interest in this one; in the early years of the website, it was a regular point of discussion… but that may have been thanks to the biggest Empire fan ever being a regular on our forums in those days
Taking a break from delving into the past, here is a game which is still in active development as of today. KeeperRL enhances the small dungeon building simulation genre which had a short heyday in the mid-1990s with more role-playing elements, tactical combat, an intuitive interface, random (highly configurable) maps and highly attractive graphics. Definitely worth checking out and following further enhancement!
3 Skulls of the Toltecs is a game I've last played 15 years ago. I didn't enjoy it very much back then. How do I know? Having a website has its advantages in supporting one's memory Given that my previous record of what I thought about it left something to be desired, I gave the game another spin. Did this change my mind? Feel free to check it out and compare.
Continuing with brand new (well, 27 year old) games, who is the Supreme Warrior? That guy there on the picture? The intention seems to be that it should be you, the player, who is supposed to rise to this "supreme" status by defeating the circus freaks like him. Don't even think for a second this will be an easy task, though. In spite of their appearance, these guys are quite tough. But at least somewhat merciful, as they will let the player escape repeatedly after defeats. What is merciless, on the other hand, is this game overall…
Behind the scenes, we have started a Herculean task some time ago: reviewing all the contents we have produced in the last 20+ years. Trying to see what we still consider good and what could be improved by today's standards. As it turns out, we produced some really nice write-ups over the years, but some others have become rather dated or they're in some other way not really in line with our own expectations anymore.
One such case was Battle Bugs. This game was one of the four initially covered at the day of the website's opening. Reading my old review, I found that it really deserved a fresh look. Don't worry, the "historical" one remains there for those who still want to read it, but the one posted today is now considered "default". Enjoy!
As if 3DO and CD-i weren't obscure enough, LostInSpace adds the Atari XEGS to our list of generally unknown and unsuccessful game console coverage. The obvious first choice to introduce a system being its bundled launch title: Bug Hunt. This one being special in another way as well, with regards to its controller. Good thing that our hero can discuss first-hand impressions.
As I'm writing these lines, my daughter is watching a cartoon where a kid Marco Polo travels into the far east in search of his father. It's actually not too bad. Although there is absolutely no relation to this Marco Polo game, I will probably not always associate the cartoon's title tune with the game. Anyway… indeed, trying to construct any parallel, one could argue that this game also falls within the area of family entertainment. For sure, it was intended as a communal experience sitting on the couch in front of a TV.
Do you remember Kai's Power Goo? Yup, that tool which made photos look exactly like this? Leading to thirty seconds of chuckle before realizing that it was utterly useless? No, this is not what you will find on our website now.
Instead, my latest 3DO pick is Psychic Detective, an interactive movie from the mid-1990s. Interactive movie? Yes, I know, but please believe me when I say that this one is different. Far from perfect for sure, but full of smart ideas. The manual hinted at sequels (labellling this one the protagonist's "first case") which never appeared. Too bad!
If you were leading a conscious life in the early 1980s, you will certainly remember Richard Chamberlain in the role of John Blackthorne. Learning basic Japanese and bowing a lot, but switching to annoying "olde English" with a lot of "thys" and "thees" when wooing his sweetheart Yoko Shimada, while Toshiro Mifune attempted to become Shōgun. In 1989, players already had their second chance to do better. No, that's not right. They had the chance to do exactly as well as Blackthorne, or worse and fail.
On an interesting sidenote, this was one of the last games made and released by Infocom, long past their market leadership in adventure games.
Whoops, what is this? An Ultima Underworld sequel made by SSI? Not a bad guess. With Slayer, released only on the 3DO console, SSI took the plunge into 360° free movement dungeon adventuring. Turned out this was among the last few releases they could squeeze out of their D&D licence.
LostInSpace dives into another area of obscurity. Not the least bit less obscure, but just different. Wizard of Wasd for sure is the newest game on our website. Brand new, just released this year! Nevertheless, it fits perfectly into our website theme, as it has not only been made for a 40-year-old system, but also under other severe resource restrictions. Unbelievable what some people can squeeze out of so little!
What better way to celebrate our relaunch than by diversifying our contents as well? Celebrating my penchant for "underdog" systems, the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer seemed like the perfect choice.
The decentralized nature of 3DO development, with no single, strong corporate backer, lead to a not so nice situation for the system. At launch, there were few games available. Crash 'n Burn is said to be the only third party title available at the time, and some sources claim it was bundled with the first Panasonic hardware. As we all know, the 3DO flopped. How much of the blame has to go to this game?
Looks like our constant recording of what's going on in our neighbour's house is finally going to pay off! Let's hope we will not run out of battery prematurely. Now that would be inconvenient after all this waiting.
Waiting being the key word here. A couple of years passed between the first part and this sequel. Those years had made the death of the original game's home platform plainly obvious. So obvious that Voyeur II wasn't even released on the CD-i anymore, but rather only for the IBM platform. Friends of cheesy 1980s soap operas could therefore rejoice – finally some fresh material!
Uh, yes, those graphics aren't very good. This is what they thought could compete with the lush art of Magnetic Scrolls? Dream on!
Turns out they couldn't, as sales for Level 9 never picked up to former greatness again. Though looking beyond the cover, Knight Orc is worth a second look. Or a third one. Or even a larger discussion. Because it could have given a whole new direction to a by that time aging genre.
Whoops, I don't remember those guys in the back from TV. Did they really belong to the series' principle cast? Wait a minute? They wouldn't have edited themselves into the picture, would they? Those are the people responsible for making the game, I assume? Actually, not such a horrible idea.
Hill Street Blues, the game, you have obviously either never heard of or forgotten all about. But then, life is all about discovery, being open to new things, isn't it? Even if those things aren't strictly speaking all that new, it should apply in spirit
What better way to celebrate our relaunch than by getting back on track with fresh contents? VIR2L opens the way into our new age with a fresh review of The Legacy. While at it, he implicitly also confirmed that some of the neat new functions we now have are working correctly. Namely, the ability for every user to see his contributions not yet approved and edit them while still in the queue. Conveniently accessible through the user icon on the top right of the page. Oh, nothing shown for you? Then send something in…
There it is, finally! The big launch of our 2018 re-design! Uh… admittedly two years late. There's a lot to discover, so take your time to look around as much as you like.
P. S. If things look wrong try to clean up your browser cache!
Al Lowe and his illegitimate alter ego Larry Laffer are somewhat "love them or hate them", I guess. LostInSpace takes the sixth installment of the endless series head-on: Love for Sail! Did he use his free time well? Surprisingly enough, he gives quite a balanced account of this adventure.
Oh, wow, another pinball game from 21st Century Entertainment! After first hitting a gold mine with Pinball Dreams, this company milked their cash cow beyond imaginable limits. By 1996, there were so many on the market that Absolute Pinball can't have left a big impression anymore. At least it didn't bring back any recollection to me. The concept was always the same: four new tables, each with a specific theme, built from the standard physical elements. The surprising thing is that nevertheless, replaying them today, quality differs greatly. Table layout and features can place the overall game anywhere from total failure to great fun on the quality scale. lostaddict1 tells us all about this one.
We're all quite vain here, you know. If you show us that you've invested some real time into your submission, it's a sure way to have it posted soon. Like macburn did with Blockbuster. Yes, we're also quite easy to please
To the next 20 years!
(Sorry, making the cake took one day longer than expected…)
LostInSpace prepares the next snack for all of us: Black Sect 2: The Cursed Crypt. Not quite a full meal, since he skips the first part and jumps right to the sequel, but there is a good reason for that – language barrier. Although he may have missed that an English version of the Atari ST original does exist… so should we send him back and oblige him to fight his way through the clunky previous part as well?
Lone producer of new contents LostInSpace goes back to the beginnings of everyone's favourite game publisher ever: Sierra On-Line. Oil's Well isn't exactly the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of their back catalogue, however. All the more reason to learn about the humble beginnings of it all.
Remember that Star Trek episode with those animals breeding so fast that the ship was full of them? This game bears no formal relation, but nevertheless, it has something in common. LostInSpace revisits a favourite of the MS-DOS shareware era in the early 90s. Crystal Caves is fondly remembered for its varied, puzzly level design. Where technology wasn't quite up to par compared to other systems, good ideas made up for it in those games which stood the test of time. This is one of them.
dosgameruy kicks off the new year (for real, sorry, Moebius) with an in-depth look at Rise of the Triad: Dark War. This game comes from the time when 3D shooters were taking over the complete market, leaving nothing else… but at least, this one has one major redeeming feature: it's excellent box art! Funny how such purely cosmetical differences can communicate an imaginary different theme and therefore trigger fundamentally different associations with a player even if the game itself is mostly "same old".
As a nice side effect, this also fills one of the long standing open points of our request list. Take a look – maybe there is something you could take care of? It would be appreciated for sure! Come on, it would be a checkmark on one of those new year's resolution
And 2020 is finally here! I like to think this year should be unique and fulfilling in some way at least because I have a thing for even dates like that. The year behind was a very difficult and edgy one in every sense. It took a lot of our energy and made us re-think a few of our policies several times over. Some scheduled tasks weren't accomplished as expected, sorry. Certain things are easy to implement in theory but actual practice can reveal plenty of pitfalls. Yes, 2019 leaves a lot to be desired, but our suffering wasn't in vain and it has taught us a number of important lessons. Thank you everyone who contributed vastly last year, we will also try to meet your expectations and make TGOD better than ever. Happy New Year everyone!
P. S. Apologies for a little belated announcement, very busy days *hiccup*