The "Retro" Money-Making Machine
Alas, good old nostalgia! What is better than idling in a slightly melancholic mood while pondering the past? Almost anything was better in the good old days: Colours were more intense, one-liners smarter and verb lists longer. We were content with the little things. Who needed more than peeps, pixels and bizzareness?
Nowadays you can turn those nostalgic feelings into hard cash. At least if you can offer some familiar faces from back then too, which keeps you from getting lost in that flood of Kickstarters. Of course Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick had no problems with that.
Manual and box already catch the eye of the mystery fan, as – using a lot of dark colours – they summon up a story of magicians in parallel worlds, about magical portals and about a hub called Nietoom. The aura of the phantastic genre is there. The manual also helps understanding the game's starting screen. You find yourself in the bedroom of your late grandfather who, until his death, researched the location of this portal of worlds. The room is shown with a crooked horizon line and the player's avatar is actually nowhere to be seen. Maybe the now missing grandfather is supposed to be symbolic for a world in turmoil. In order to leave the room and to really start your task, you have to – as described in the manual – search the side of the screen until you find a door in the back of the viewpoint. It is only in the next room – the upper staircase of the mansion – that you can actually take a look at the protagonist: a youthful figure neatly dressed in a kind of dressing gown, sporting full, perfectly groomed hair. Though is this prissy grandson the character a Lucas Arts afficionado would like to identify with?
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.