Alone in the Dark

Alone in the Dark is a game that dabbles in the Cthulhu mythos. The horrific situations found within the game display their Cthulhulian influence, and even the mansion is discovered to be actually named after Shub-Niggurath, H.P. Lovecraft’s The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young. However, the creatures that Edward and Emily encounter are more standard fare (and are a mixed bag when it comes to frightening appearance), and do not possess the mind and world-shattering power of Lovecraftian monsters.

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Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards

Sales were very soft that first week, with only 4,000 copies sold; no advertising and no fanfare had its expected result. However, word-of-mouth was as powerful in 1987 as it is today, and sales jumped to an impressive 250,000 copies sold. The game even managed to garner the Software Publishers Association’s Best Fantasy, Role Playing or Adventure Game of 1987. It was eventually released on several platforms, including IBM PC (MS-DOS), Apple II, Atari ST, Commodore Amiga, Apple Macintosh, and the TRS-80.

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Thunderscape

Thunderscape wasn’t all hack ‘n’ slash, though. Puzzles needed to be solved to progress through the storyline. Clues were distributed throughout the gameworld that needed to be collected and used. Even combat required more than the standard, send in the walking tank while launching fireballs from the rear, as some enemies would not fall without discovering their weaknesses during gameplay. All in all,Thunderscape was a thinking person’s RPG, not a clickfest.

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King’s Quest

There have been several releases of King’s Quest over the years, starting with the original version in 1983, which was packaged up in the IBM PC Jr series of computers. Fortunately, poor sales of the computer did not result in the termination of the King’s Quest franchise, as it was released in Apple II, PC (boot disk) and Tandy format in 1984 to general fanfare, and around 500,000 copies sold. The game sold well enough that it was re-released in 1987 in the Amiga, Atari ST, Macintosh and MS-DOS formats, which sent it back up the sales charts.

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Descent to Undermountain

Besides a rich character generation process, Descent to Undermountain also had a decent storyline and pacing. You began the game determining what in AO’s name are you supposed to be doing in Waterdeep. As the game map only showed Khelben’s Tower as a clickable item, it was off to visit the Blackstaff to see if he could enlighten you. It seemed that kobolds were bothering Waterdeep’s merchants, and had been spotted just outside the main entrance to Undermountain.

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Outlaws

Outlaws was a first-person shooter style game using a modified version of the Dark Forces game engine, and although the game’s storyline was focused on single-player gameplay, the game also featured a robust multiplayer mode. Players could choose to play up to six of the main characters within the game: ex-Marshall Anderson, Matt “Dr. Death” Jackson (who killed the Marshall’s wife), “Bloody” Mary Nash, “Gentleman” Bob Graham (the railroad baron), “Spittin” Jack Sanchez, and Chief Two-Feathers, with advantages and disadvantages for each.

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Freakin Funky Fuzzballs

Sir-Tech was known for producing the Wizardry RPG series, so Freakin’ Funky Fuzzballs was a complete departure from their norm. (I picture the Wizardry team, burnt out from living an all-RPG, all-the-time existence, seeing this game and falling in love with its sheer absurdity.) The game was credited as the work of Ian Currie (game design, graphics, and programming) and Robert Koller (game design and graphics). Of the two designers, Currie would go on to work on several Sir-Tech games, such as Realms of Arkania: Star Trail, the Jagged Alliance series, and Wizardry: Nemesis, as well as more recent non-Sir-Tech offerings (since they went out of business in 2001, but not their Canadian chapter, which lasted until 2003), such as Star Trek: Legacy, Empire Earth III, and Dungeons and Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited.

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The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery

The answer is multifaceted, but the first step was retaining Jane Jensen as the author of the entire storyline. The first Gabriel Knight game was lauded for not only being fun to play, but having a deeper story than most adventure games. Ms. Jensen had majored in computer science, but also had a deep fascination with creative writing, evidenced by her work on the Gabriel Knight series. Interestingly, she did not become a published novelist until well after The Beast Within, with her novelization of the first Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers book in 1997, and then Gabriel Knight: The Beast Within’s novelization in 1998. Her first non-computer game related novel, Millennium Rising, was published in 1999, the same year her last Gabriel Knight game was released.

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Daikatana

Once the game was released, the sheer mediocrity of the product became evident. The game mechanic was wonky, with the player getting the “benefit” of two sidekicks that you needed to keep alive to help solve various puzzles during the game. Of course, they had the AI equivalent of a gnat, so you tended to see them die. A lot. And did I mention that if the sidekicks died you lost the level? That’s just bad design, which is unforgivable from someone who believes, “Design is Law.” The good news for the sidekicks is that the AI for the enemies is just as bad, perhaps worse.

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Family Game Night 4

Mr. Potato-Head is the host of the game, and though he is not annoying like the bizarre host of the Family Feud Xbox game (the memory of whom has scarred me for life), he also doesn’t add anything to the gameplay. The animations of the avatars are a bit silly, and not dismissed immediately with a button-click, which makes them a little irritating. The play-by-play voice was a constant, “go get ‘em, tiger” kind of happy, which lost its charm over time. Note to developers: if you want to see how a host can be engaging, perhaps even annoying, and yet bring you back for more, check out theYou Don’t Know Jack series of games.

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Gambler

This is not a game for the anti-gambling crowd. When playing this game you gamble at every opportunity, and often entice your opponents to gamble with you. You bet on the horses. You visit casinos. You play bingo. You play the lottery. If there’s a way for you to gamble in this game, the designers’ thought of it and you’re part of it. There is even a special “Sweepstakes” dice shaker that you use to try to win big. Mind you, my sister and I played a lot of this game in our younger days, and the biggest gamble I make these days is taking a chance on a new brand of coffee at the grocery store, so it doesn’t seem to have corrupted our psyches with its wicked ways.

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Rise of the Dragon

The real-time environment also plays out in character interaction. What Blade says and does to each character will influence his future interactions with them or their friends (or enemies). This can have devastating effects on game play as a snide remark that seemed so appropriate at the time can limit Blade’s access to important game areas, and make the game’s ending untenable. Again, it’s best to save before any character interaction to avoid running into a dead end (or use the hint book…but I digress).

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Mouse Trap

Mouse Trap was indeed a GREAT game. It was inspired by the drawings of Rube Goldberg, whose complicated contraptions had entertained Americans through the middle of the 20th Century. Unfortunately, although Marvin Glass acknowledged Mr. Goldberg’s influence to the game’s design, declined to play the then quite elderly artist any royalties, which Mr. Goldberg had neither the resources nor strength to fight. It’s hard to believe, but board game history is full of dastardly deeds such as this –just ask who actually invented the game of Monopoly. (But I digress…again.)

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The Six Million Dollar Man: Bionic Crisis

Bionic Crisis was a game that contained both elements of chance and deductive reasoning. To set up, each player took one of the four Console Boxes and inserted a Console Card into it. The red and yellow board pegs are placed somewhere where everyone can reach them. Then the deck of Bionic Circuit Cards was shuffled, and one was dealt to each player, who kept it hidden from his or her opponents. Finally, the deck of Number Cards was shuffled, with each player given three cards and the rest placed face down for everyone to draw from during gameplay. Once set up, the play began.

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Wonderland

Magnetic Scrolls developed an interesting game engine called “Magnetic Windows” which they used for Wonderland. Rather than one game screen, Magnetic Windows permitted several game screens to be opened at once (much like Microsoft Windows), and each window could be moved or resized as needed. So a player could have their inventory screen, a screen with details about a particular object, the game map, a specific room item list, a compass, a help menu, the main screen with a graphic, and more all open at once.

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WHOSIT?

Released in 1976, WHOSIT? is a game where players begin by randomly taking one of 20 Character cards, keep it hidden from other players’ eyes, and then try to guess who has which card based upon the questions they draw from the Question Card deck. Players answer YES or NO depending on the question, such as, “Are you holding something?”, “Do you have glasses?”, “Are you male?”, or “Do you smoke?“ Lucky players can draw a “Ask ANY Question” card, which contains all the questions in the deck on one card.

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Ratrace

What makes this game even more unique is the element of credit. Yes, you can get a credit card in Ratrace. If you don’t have the money to buy your Status Symbol cards – no problem: get it on credit. The danger, though, comes from the Credit Due spaces on the game board. If you land on one not only do you have to pay the full amount of your credit account, but you have to add an additional 10% as an interest payment. So, as in real life, too much credit card spending can lead to your financial ruin!

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