Singapore, Lion City. This is where the trail leads when a Japanese business man and former general of the royal army is murdered by a prostitute in London. Investigative journalists Christine and Robert smell a story, and the game's plot follows them. However, the player takes over the role of Taiko, member of a Japanese secret society, who apparently supports the two in some way.
Which strikes right at the core of the plot's issues. The player does not take the role of the protagonist; others are in the driver's seat. Even worse, half of the time, the player is presented with scenes in which Taiko is not present and about which he couldn't possibly know. Even in those situations where he is present, Taiko remains a passive spectator. Which all leads to one suspicion: Taiko, as player avatar, has only been retrospectively introduced into an already finished story.
Good humour takes proper setup and precise timing: Leading up to and delivering a punchline is an art form of its own which is harder to master than most people tend to believe. Yet it is one of the most important skills that separates the amateur jokester from the true comedian. Of course this is also what makes or brakes any video game that tries to make its audience laugh and it is especially the adventure game genre that has a tradition of delivering prime examples to both the best and the worst in comedy. One of the former is Alias 'The Magpie', a piece of interactive fiction telling the story of a hilarious art heist in a masterful way.
If you look over the shoulder of a core or hobby gamer today, you will surely find a gamepad in their hands. Such a controller is a must-have equipment and even the showpiece of every console. Further bundled with a sensational game title, the console appears as an irresistible package in the stores. But in the 80s, strange flowers sprouted here and there. At that time the joystick was still very popular and the home computer sector could not be imagined without it. Such a joystick was then also included with the Atari XE console. But for the overall package, Atari even included a keyboard for "advanced games" and – to get to the point – a lightgun. The toy in futuristic design was the means of virtual pest control in the included game Bug Hunt. The novel firearm, together with the launch title Bug Hunt, was the driving force behind Atari's first computer-derived console release. This seems very daring nowadays, since the control via controller is so natural. But in its time, the Atari marketing department apparently saw an advantage in the versatile usability of its console. The XE Game System was supposed to offer real arcade feeling with the help of this lightgun, which you could otherwise only get for many coins at the slot machines. Later, Nintendo also produced a lightgun called Zapper for the competing NES and marketed it together with the game Duck Hunt. In the end, it was clearly the NES that won the race for market share and the lightgun has largely disappeared, not least because of the lack of cathode ray tube monitors. So, did Atari bet on the wrong horse on the usability side, or was perhaps even the game offered in the overall package the drawback? An answer is purely speculative of course, but I mounted the horse, put on the cowboy boots and strapped on the shooting iron.