Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards

 

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Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards

I remember very well the buzz at the gaming table about a certain balding protagonist of a now-classic Sierra adventure game.  He wasn’t your typical adventure game hero: he was a bumbler, a loser, an everyman shooting for the DD stars.  All he wanted was a piece of the action.  Well, a piece, at any rate.  With the release of Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards Sierra On-Line in 1987, the 3D animated adventure game series entered a new, more (im)mature era, and a gaming icon was born.  (A little tidbit: 3D in this case meant “Dancing, Drinking, and Dames.”)

 

blogleisurelarryfront
Box art for Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards

Poor Larry was a luckless virgin with absolutely no game.  He dressed in badly dated clothing and wore a gold chain, and by the start of the game, had come to the city of Lost Wages for one last shot at sleeping with a woman.  The game began outside a bar with Larry vowing to become an ex-virgin.  For many gamers, Leisure Suit Larry symbolized their own struggle to negotiate the turbulent waters of dealing with the opposite gender, and the game struck a nerve.  If Larry could get lucky, any of us could, darn it!

Leisure Suit Larry creator, Al Lowe
Leisure Suit Larry creator, Al Lowe

The creative force tapped to make Leisure Suit Larry a reality was a programmer at Sierra who had previously guided some of the Disney licenses, such as The Black CauldronDonald Duck’s Playground, and Winnie the Pooh in the Hundred Acre Wood.  Based on that body of work, who knew that Al Lowe would have such a twisted sense of humor?  Al Lowe was an accomplished musician (complete with a degree in music), and had spent 15 years in the public school system teaching music.  He enjoyed playing games, and decided to teach himself programming to make his own, and enter a new career.  He completed a few games (Troll’s Tale and Dragon’s Keepwere two of them) and sold them to the fledgling Sierra On-Line company, and stayed with them for 16 years.

softporn adventures
Box art for Softporn Adventure by On-Line Systems

By his own admission, Al Lowe based much of Leisure Suit Larry on an old text adventure game written by Chuck Benton called Softporn Adventure.  The game revolved around the player finding various inventory items to get into the pants of several women – sound familiar?  Softporn Adventure was released for the Apple II system in 1981, selling 50,000 units for its publisher, On-Line Systems, (which eventually became Sierra On-Line).  Considering Apple had sold around 350,000 Apple II systems by 1981, Softporn Adventure was a decent sized hit.  Given that the Software Piracy Association’s estimated piracy rate was 40%, it was more likely that there were 70,000 copies floating around, which would be closer to 20% total market penetration.  (Al Lowe claims the ratio to be 100,000 Apple II PCs and 25,000 Softporn games sold, but his statement may have been a little bit of poetic license.)   Here’s a little historical tidbit for you: check out the lady on the right in the pic above…that’s Roberta Williams, in the buff.

 

Outside Lefty's bar in Leisure Suit Larry
Outside Lefty’s bar in Leisure Suit Larry

With sales like this, it’s little wonder that Ken Williams (husband of Roberta and one of the founders of Sierra) approached Al Lowe to make a new game with a similar motif.   They discussed updating Softporn Adventure to fit in the new 3-D animated adventure line-up, but as Lowe recalls telling Williams, “There’s no way I can do this as a serious game. It’s so out of it that it should be wearing a leisure suit…But if you let me mock it, I might be able to do a spoof of it.”   And so, six months of programming later, Leisure Suit Larry entered the marketplace, with a very quiet launch to avoid incurring the wrath of Sierra’s major distributors (like the unamused charcoal-gray suits in the Tandy Corporation headquarters, who were responsible for up to 40% of Sierra’s software sales).

 

Hot tub babe in Leisure Suit Larry
Hot tub babe in Leisure Suit Larry

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 Gamof 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.

 

Cover art for the VGA remake of Leisure Suit Larry
Cover art for the VGA remake of Leisure Suit Larry

With the advent of VGA technology, Sierra brought Leisure Suit Larry to a new audience in 1991.  It was relaunched with a completely redone game engine that used an icon-driven interface rather than a text-based parser, which was touted by the game packaging as an opportunity to “point-and-grope.”  The re-release used an updated SCI (Sierra Creative Interpreter) engine, which permitted 256-color VGA graphics.   This was quite the improvement upon the original 1987 game, whose highest graphics quality was 16 colors in a 300×200 screen.

 

Lefty's bar in the 1991 VGA remake of Leisure Suit Larry
Lefty’s bar in the 1991 VGA remake of Leisure Suit Larry

Another avenue that Al Lowe was able to exercise his creative spirit within Larry’s universe was putting his music roots to good use by composing the theme music for the Land of the Lounge Lizards.  The music was an integral component of Larry’s impending iconic status, using the primitive sound technology of the early PCs to create a jaunty tune that was easily identifiable as Larry’s theme.  The VGA remake also had access to better audio technology, and so the music is much richer.  There’s also much more of it, as Lowe could really only fit so much audio into a single 3.5″ or two 5.25″ floppy diskettes (what the original 1987 game came loaded on).

Musical score for Leisure Suit Larry
Musical score for Leisure Suit Larry

Al Lowe’s creation sold well enough that sequels were a highly anticipated inevitability.  Lounge Lizards was followed by 1988′s Leisure Suit Larry Goes Looking For Love (in Several Wrong Places), which was followed by 1989′s Leisure Suit Larry III: Passionate Patti in Pursuit of the Pulsating Pectorals. Typical of Lowe’s humorous approach to the series, the fourth game released in 1991 was actually entitled Leisure Suit Larry 5: Passionate Patti Does a Little Undercover Work.  Lowe followed up that game in 1993 with Leisure Suit Larry 6: Shape Up Or Slip Out!.  Lowe’s final Larry game was 1996′s Leisure Suit Larry: Love For Sail. The dawn of true 3-D adventures was upon the gaming industry, but Sierra did not have the cash reserves to retool their flagship titles to the new standard.  Subsequently, Al Lowe was let go, ending his run as the narrator of the Leisure Suit Larry series, and ending Leisure Suit Larry‘s relevance.  Yes, more games in the series would be released, but they would be empty shells, devoid of the charm that Al Lowe captured for so many years, victims of the rise of the bean-counters in the gaming industry.  (Al Lowe is still on the Internet, and you can find him at his website: allowe.com How this creative man isn’t absolutely deluged with consultation requests from up-and-coming indie software developers amazes me.)

 

Hot tub babe from the 1991 version of Leisure Suit Larry I
Hot tub babe from the 1991 version of Leisure Suit Larry I

If you have managed to avoid playing the original Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards, it’s time for that to end.  Yes, the graphics are hopelessly dated in comparison to the real-world graphic opuses that populate the gamerverse these days…but the joy of Leisure Suit Larry isn’t in the eye candy, it’s in the situational comedy coupled with Al Lowe’s scripting.  Pick up a copy – this game is worth any retrogamer’s retrogaming time!

The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery

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Another limitation that the use of FMV incorporated into gameplay was the need to limit the choices available to the player, thereby making the game more linear.  Unlike some games that provided many paths based upon how a player reacted to each situation, The Beast Within kept players hemmed within a much more linear storyline.  The costs in both production dollars and CD space were simply too high to choose any other avenue. ~Dan Epp

The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery

In 1995, the phrase “full motion video” (FMV) conjured up the image of such classic games as Night Trap and Burn: Cycle – eye candy at best, and generally poor gaming experiences.  CD-ROM technology had been out a for a couple of years, and The 7th Guest was really still the only “must-have” CD-only game on the market.  So, imagine the concerns of adventure gamers when they discovered that the sequel to Jane Jensen’s awesome Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers was going to be released in FMV format.

The Beast Within - A Gabriel Knight Mystery

However, these concerns were unfounded.  Sierra had been working on the Script Code Interpreter (SCI) game engine, which used full motion technology, for a Roberta Williams game, Phantasmagoria.  The development team for the second Gabriel Knight game, The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery, was able to appropriate the engine for their own use, which had the benefit of cutting down the game’s development time.  However, even with the game engine built, FMV was an expensive process, involving a production crew and professional actors, all of whom were paid well for their time.

The Beast Within - A Gabriel Knight Mystery

Another limitation that the use of FMV incorporated into gameplay was the need to limit the choices available to the player, thereby making the game more linear.  Unlike some games that provided many paths based upon how a player reacted to each situation, The Beast Within kept players hemmed within a much more linear storyline.  The costs in both production dollars and CD space were simply too high to choose any other avenue.

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.  She has continued to write books, earning a Phillip K. Dick Award nomination for Best Novel in 2003 for her book, Dante`s Equation.  But I digress!

The Beast Within - A Gabriel Knight Mystery

The Beast Within was not only written well, it was acted well.  The game featured Dean Erickson as Gabriel, who would go on to leave acting altogether and become a real estate agent; Joanne Takahashi as Grace, who continues to take a variety of minor roles tailored for Asian women; Peter J. Lucas as Baron Friedrich von Glower, who continues to take roles for an ethnic European; Andrea Martin as Gerde, who was a Tony-award winning actress before working on The Beast Within and continues to work on both the stage and in voice-over work today.  None of these four ever worked on a computer game again! However, Nicolas Worth, who played Kriminal-Kommisar Leber, has not only had a successful career in film and television both before and after The Beast Within, but has also continue to work in the gaming industry, acting in Emperor: Battle For DuneCommand & Conquer: Tiberian Sun, and Red Alert 2, as well as lending his voice to Freedom Fighters!

The Beast Within - A Gabriel Knight Mystery

The puzzles of The Beast Within were not particularly difficult, but were, on the whole, imaginative.  The game used “hotspots” on the photographic quality images to show that there was something of interest on the screen, so it was a simple matter to gain all the inventory items required to solve most of the puzzles the game threw at its players.  Like many adventure games, forward progress could come to a complete halt until you discovered the correct hotspot, but this generally was not a complete inconvenience.

Reviews of The Beast Within were very favorable upon its release.  Two of the biggest gaming magazines of the day gave it high marks: PC Gamer gave it a score of 96% and it’s coveted Editor’s Choice award, while Computer Gaming World (CGW) gave it 5 out of 5 stars, a Critics Choice tag as well as naming it the 1996 CGW Game of the Year.  It also managed to make #17 on CGW’s 150 Best Games of All Time , which is the definitive “must-play” list for retrogaming enthusiasts!  If you haven’t played this classic of the adventure game genre, you’re missing a rare treat.  Highly recommended!

The Adventures of Willy Beamish

The Adventures of Willy Beamish - PC - gameplay screenshot

The Adventures of Willy Beamish

From all the games I have ever played, there is only one I have firmly associated with Christmas and the whole wintery festive period (I sadly don’t seem to particularly care for this one much anymore, what with me being an apparently empty/logical shell of a gnome and all). Said game is none other than The Adventures of Willy Beamish; a game designed by Jeff Tunnell, developed by Dynamix and published by Sierra back in the too distant sounding 1991. A game I was reading about in every gaming mag of the era, an expensive VGA offering in a big box, and a most excellent Xmas present by my parents.
The Adventures of Willy Beamish - PC - gameplay screenshot
I distinctly remember being incredibly excited about it, yet somehow carefully opening its box to discover a ton of 5.25″ disks, one of the best manuals ever designed, a Sierra catalog, some feelies of sorts and those amazing, colourful Willy Beamish stickers that ended up on my room’s door. I also remember waiting impatiently for what felt like ages for the game to install itself on my 40MB hard-drive and playing it for hours to the sounds of an old Platters LP. Hmm, this must be why I also associate this kind of music with the holiday season and, apparently, why I was listening to 50s music while photographing my dearest of all game boxes:
The Adventures of Willy Beamish - PC - gameplay screenshot
Interestingly though, I have never played the game since finally beating it later in 1992, admittedly with the help of a learned, yet younger, friend who I am sure must have gotten his hands on some sort of rare at the times walkthrough. But, why haven’t I played it again after all those years, then? Why have I abstained from its many charms? Well, truth is, I somehow feel I might just spoil its memory and have decided to only periodically re-read the manual. Besides, I do actually remember Willy Beamish pretty vividly.
 The Adventures of Willy Beamish - PC - gameplay screenshot
I remember its fantastic Dragon’s Lair-esque graphics; they were the first of their sort in a point-and-click adventure. I remember the stunning animations and (low-res, I’m afraid) cartoon quality cut-scenes. I remember the way it showcased the capabilities of my very first PC soundcard. I remember how the story of a nine year old boy trying to competitively play video games while avoiding parental troubles and getting the girl, somehow turned into a ghost infested attempt at foiling an evil corporation. I remember getting sent off to military school and dying a dozen lushly animated deaths. I remember cajoling my in-game parents and entering my frog into competitions. I remember exploring the sanitised darkness of 90s American suburbia and being both shocked and delighted. I remember enjoying the subtle humour. I remember getting hopelessly stuck, but, above all, I warmly remember loving it.
The Adventures of Willy Beamish - PC - gameplay screenshot
I also remember things I didn’t quite notice back then. I remember that Willy Beamish sported an incredibly simple (or elegant if you prefer) interface, one of the first ones to feature a smart cursor, yet remaining incredibly difficult. I remember the dead ends and pointlessly punishing arcade sequences too. And the fact that the trouble-meter was a very smart way of letting players know whether they were on the right track.

Then again, that’s enough with my memories. Anyone else care to reminiscent on the festive joys of gaming? Well, that’s what comments are for I suppose.

Hero’s Quest

Heros Quest - PC - Sierra - Gameplay Screenshot

This week I’m  looking at the Sierra On-Line classic, Hero Quest, first released in 1989.  This game was a completely different gaming experience back in the day.  Most gamers were used to adventure games, like King’s Quest or Space Quest, or role-playing games, like Might & Magic.  But an amalgamation of role-playing and adventure games was unheard of! Lori Cole’s game design was unique and the game was a best-seller for Sierra, spawning several sequels over the years.

Heros Quest - PC - Sierra - Gameplay Screenshot

You could play Hero Quest either as a Fighter, Magic-User, or Thief.  The game’s puzzles were designed so that they could be solved in different ways by the different character classes, and you could improve your character’s skills and inventory as you played the game.   It played as an adventure game, where your character completed quests and solved puzzles, moving the storyline to its epic finish.  By today’s PC game standards, the graphics and sound are rudimentary at best, with your hero looking a bit like a stick figure jerkily moving about the screen.  But a good retro gamer never judges an old game by today’s standards!  The storyline is strong, and can still be fun to play today.

Heros Quest - PC - Sierra - Gameplay Screenshot

An interesting side note about Hero Quest is that the game’s name had to be changed almost immediately after it was distributed.  Milton Bradley had trademarked the Hero Quest name for their 3D board game, which apparently no one in the Sierra On-Line team knew – until they were told to remove it or else.  The solution was to simply change the title of Hero Questto Hero Quest: So You Want To Be A Hero.  Of course, this has led to these two games forever jumbled together in google searches as retro gamers look to find them to add to their collections!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1rJXX5yBcs&feature=player_embedded[/youtube]

Oil’s Well

oil's well - sierra - gameplay screenshot
I thought I’d let you know just what a visually stunning, additively fun and mostly forgotten little gem this 1990 Sierra production is.
oil's well - sierra - gameplay screenshot
Well, it is, and its VGA version for our ageing DOS boxes is most probably the best arcade/puzzler this developer ever came up with, though admittedly they did have to remake its earlier 1983 version.
oil's well - sierra - gameplay screenshot
Oh, and it would be fair to call this one abandonware. Have a play/look.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-JQS3iWjVA[/youtube]

How Gaming Changed This Girl’s Life

It’s funny how, in the beginning, he thought it was cool dating a girl who liked gaming. He now cautions guys against dating gamer girls! He was just mad that I took over his Playstation for about a whole solid month. Yeah, I know it shouldn’t have been that long, but I’m one of those “gotta get everything” kinda gamers.~Jessi Roman

How Gaming Changed This Girl’s Life

Single moments in history are what make up our lives.  Some moments pass by unnoticed, seemingly meaningless, lost in a neurological card catalog, while others are etched into our memories, never to be forgotten.

chronocross_kid

What was it about that day in 2nd grade (no, I’m not going to tell you what year it was!) that stood out in my memory? Santa Claus came to our class. We went up and down the rows, each naming one thing we wanted for Christmas. I was the only one that did not ask for a Nintendo! I asked for a drum set, and I got it… never did become much of a musician. At any rate, this was not the catalyst that began my transformation from the geeky kid that every one made fun of into… well, the geeky gamer girl that everyone made fun of. (Thank God for the sudden acclamation of geek culture!) No, it was not this single moment, framed in time, that changed my life, but for some reason it stuck.

I didn’t get a NES of my very own until several years later. That’s not to say that I didn’t spend hours upon hours of my formative years playing Super Mario Bros. with the boy across the street. But no, I wasn’t a “gamer” back then. I mean, I definitely remember that feeling I got the first time I found out that my Princess was in another castle… -_- and I remember how I swelled with pride when I finally beat 8-4 and found her! I mean, I have some seriously precious gaming memories that even go as far back as Sierra’s “Space Quest: The Sarien Encounter”.

space-quest-1--roger-wilco-and-the-sarien-encounter-(vga)-screenshot

There was a life-changing gaming experience for me, though. It wasn’t until after I graduated high school. I started dating this guy who had a Playstation. He changed my life forever. Not only did I end up marrying the guy, but he introduced me to Chrono Cross – most epic RPG ever! I had never played a serious RPG before… I mean, does Zelda count? No, I didn’t think so. So being all girly and stuff, I got really sucked in by the art, and the plethora of characters you could pick up. Matter of fact, to this day, a key element in how I rate an RPG is the number of playable characters.

Let’s face it, people, there’s no greater game to have launched me into the world of serious hard-core gaming. I worked a split shift at the JCC, so I had a block of four hours free time in the middle of the day. He gave me the key to his house (and unknowingly, the key to his heart <3… yeah, I’m a sap), and I’d spend those four hours immersed in the tropical archipelago, El Nido.

Chrono Cross

It’s funny how, in the beginning, he thought it was cool dating a girl who liked gaming. He now cautions guys against dating gamer girls! He was just mad that I took over his Playstation for about a whole solid month. Yeah, I know it shouldn’t have been that long, but I’m one of those “gotta get everything” kinda gamers… so I went for every character… played out every possible subplot… even used the strategy guide to make sure I didn’t miss anything. And boy did I get everything! It changed my life. Really. I wonder if I had not spent those hours upon hours hanging out at his house, playing Chrono Cross… I wonder if I still would have won his heart? I’m not going to go so far as to say that gaming got me married… but maybe it did. Maybe it changed my life more than I’ll ever know.

It’s been over ten years now, and we’re still married… and still gaming! I may have gotten better at sharing, and co-op games are more fun now! But to this day, nothing has ever come close to the grand epicness that is Chrono Cross. No other game has made such an impact on my life. Even as I write this now, I’m listening to the OST, and realizing how important it is that I go back for a re-play.

Did a game ever change your life? If so, how? What game was it?

Jessi Roman is a geek, gamer, mom, proudly raising the next generation of nerds! You can read her blog here.

Lode Runner

Way back in time, when I was gaming the night away on my Apple II clone (a Circle II), all things Zork ruled my gaming existence.  But when I needed a respite from adventuring in the Great Underground Empire, Lode Runner was the game that took its place.

Lord Runner - Apple - Box

Lode Runner was an arcade hit published by Broderbund Software in 1983.  The game’s backstory was that a vast fortune in gold bullion was heisted by the Bungeling Empire, and it’s your job to recover it.  Some of the gold sat around waiting for you to pick it up, and some was carried by various agents of the Empire –  which required a slightly more creative approach.  Essentially the only way to get their gold was to bury them alive, and wait for the gold to pop out once they were crushed to death.  Your Lode Runner was able to blast the dirt to either side of him (and more than one square, if needed), which would eventually automatically refill.  The trick was to make certain that an Agent would fall into it, and be unable to get out in time before the hole refilled.  Blast too soon and the hole would refill long before the Agent arrived; blast too late and the Agent would either climb out of the hole and expunge your Lode Runner from virtual existence or the hole would not open at all.  Timing your blasts, and knowing when to kill your Agents off, was the point of the game.

Lode Runner - Gameplay Screenshot

Lode Runner for Apple II screen

Yes, it was simple. What 1980’s game wasn’t?  But it was fun.  And clearly many, many gamers thought so, too, as Lode Runner was released on multiple platforms, including: Apple II (1983), Atari 400/800/XL/XE (1983), Commodore 64 (1983), MSX (1983), PC Booter (1983), VIC-20 (1983), Macintosh (1984), Nintendo Famicom (1984), ZX Spectrum (1984), PC-88 (1986), Nintendo Entertainment System (1987), Amstrad CPC (1989), and the Atari ST (1989)…among others!  That’s a lot of systems, a large audience, and a reason why Lode Runner remains a classic gaming memory.

Lode Runner - Sierra - Box

Lode Runner: The Legend Returns cover.

Like any classic game, Lode Runner had its share of updates and sequels, again a sign of a game that has a classic appeal.  The list is impressive:

  • Load Runner’s Rescue (Commodore 64, 1985)
  • Hyper Lode Runner (GameBoy, 1990)
  • Battle Lode Runner (TurboGrafx, 1993)
  • Lode Runner: The Legend Returns (DOS/Macintosh/Windows, 1994)
  • Lode Runner Online: The Mad Monk Returns (Windows/Macintosh, 1995)
  • Lode Runner 2 (Windows/Macintosh, 1998)
  • Lode Runner 3-D (Nintendo 64, 1999)
  • Battle Lode Runner (Wii, 2007)
  • Lode Runner (Xbox 360, 2009)

Lode Runner has been considered a classic for some time. It made #80 on Computer Gaming World’s 150 Best Games of All Time list, and was mentioned in 2003 as one of the best games of all time by Gamespot in their The Greatest Games of All Time series.  The creator of Tetris, the classic puzzle game that all puzzle games are compared to, was quoted in a 2008 interview with Edge Magazine that he considered Lode Runner to his favorite puzzle game for many years.  There was even a 1986 Lode Runner board game created by Donal Carlston (the creator of the still-popular board game, Personal Preference)!

Lode Runner - Online - Box

Lode Runner Online: The Mad Monk Returns cover

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jnRWMvxb7o[/youtube]

Back in 1983, a big bowl of salt ‘n’ vinegar potato chips, a jug of chocolate milk, and an afternoon of wiping out agents of the Bungeling Empire was a recipe for good times.  Now that I’m older (married with children, no less!), there’s no more chocolate milk nor salt ‘n’ vinegar potato chips, and my afternoon gaming has now been replaced with late evening gaming. But Lode Runner will always hold a special place in my gamer heart, and if you’ve never played it, find one of the updated versions and have great time!

Silpheed

Silpheed - SegaCD

This time around we have a great masterpiece for the Sega CD called Silpheed. This is probably the best shmup for the short lived peripheral for many reasons which most of you must know already. Lets just say there wasn’t much support or great titles for the Sega CD but there were some unique and groundbreaking ones like Lunar, and Sonic CD. Silpheed is a shmup that starts you right in the action and never lets go. The gameplay is as solid as a shmup game can offer. There are some sorts of power ups which will make you think twice what to pick for your missions again in terms of powering up. The game has twelve stages according to the information I gathered but I’m not sure if there are any secret stages or bonus stages of some sort.

Silpheed - SegaCD

 

The games graphics are phenomenal for a Sega CD game. It just feels like there is so much going on and at some stages you’ll be looking at all the obstacles and be amazed at all the activity going on in a matter of seconds. It’s amazing what the Sega CD was able to accomplish which was awesome for its time.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecWv3RdTE4A[/youtube]

 

Overall, if you are a fan of shmups, you must get this one even if you have to get a Genesis and a Sega CD or better yet, get a CDX but those are a little too expensive. Also, don’t forget to check out the PS2 version of this game if you don’t want to get a whole new console. Of course, that version has PS2 graphics and all but you get the same experience as the Sega CD version.

The Space Quest Retrospective: A janitor’s epic tale

Meet Roger Wilco, janitor extraordinaire and star of the (mostly) hilarious Space Quest series by Sierra, back from the era when adventure games were actually considered killer-apps and went on to spawn sequel after sequel. Say hi, through almost seven Space Quest games (well, six actually), out of which only five (almost six) used roman numerals in their titles. Meet him here and have a drink in adventure-o-vision, while reading through this particularly short retrospective.Space Quest I: The Sarien Encounter

Space Quest 1

The first game by designers Mark Crowe and Scott Murphy, a.k.a. The Two Guys from Andromeda, Space Quest I was released back in 1986 at the beginning of the adventure gaming mainstream era. The game used the early Sierra AGI engine, complete with 16 glorious EGA colours and beautifully stylized graphics, a nice soundtrack and a pretty impressive -definitely hilarious too- parser interface. The plot introduced series star Roger Wilco, a janitor, who started off his heroics by napping in a broom closet while aliens hijacked the spaceship he was supposed to be cleaning and grabbed the devastatingly deadly Star Generator, only to finally wake up and save the universe. The game introduced the series’ trademark humor, frequent -impressively varied too- deaths, difficult puzzles, arcade-y sequences and bad-guy Vohaul. Oh, and save often.

Space Quest II: Vohaul’s Revenge

Space Quest 2

The first sequel in the series is another text-driven graphics adventure that apparently took less than a year to develop, and, well, quite frankly it shows. Arch-villain Sludge Vohaul returns to hunt a now-famous Roger Wilco in a frustrating game with below average puzzles and mostly flat jokes. Not really worth your time without a walkthrough…

Space Quest III: The Pirates of Pestulon

Space Quest 3

Space Quest 3 was simply stunning and one of the better looking games of 1989, especially when seen on the Amiga. It also sported a truly post-modern and particularly funny plot involving the Space Pirates, a shovelware/software pirating group, who had kidnapped the Two Guys, thus endangering the future of the whole Space Quest franchise. Unless, that is, Roger stopped them, which apparently he did. The game, besides being excellent and taxing as ever, also featured tactical space combat and a playable arcade game.

Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers

Space Quest 4

The first 256-colour VGA Space Quest with full SoundBlaster support and the first point-and-click game in the series too, Space Quest IV comfortably remains among my top 10 adventures even to this day. It’s got everything you could ask for really: time traveling to previous and future SQ games complete with appropriate graphic changes, Roger’s son, a fantastic goodies-filled box, some of the toughest (but quite fair too) puzzles in the series, Lucasarts game parodies, a burger making mini-game, Ms. Astro Chicken, droids, quality voice acting, latex babes, elaborate easter eggs, a smell icon, a Gnome’s Lair review (also a walkthrough) and the aptly named Monochrome Boys. An absolute masterpiece.

Space Quest V: Roger Wilco – The Next Mutation

Space Quest 1

This one I haven’t played, mostly because it was the first Space Quest game that wasn’t designed by both the Guys from Andromeda, though most adventurers seem to agree it’s a mighty fine game. Reviewers liked it quite a bit too. Released back in 1993, Space Quest V had Roger apparently take on the Star Trek universe by graduating from the illustrious StarCon Academy, piloting his very own garbage-collecting spaceship and boldly going where no man had gone before, or so they say.

Space Quest 6: Roger Wilco in The Spinal Frontier

Space Quest 6

The final installment in the series and the only one to do away with the silly places in outer space in order to focus on the silly ones inside the human body, as experienced by a highly miniaturized Roger of course. Actually, scrap that, as it’s just what the title implies. The game -an SVGA CD exclusive released in 1995- has Mr. Wilco exploring the vaguely nasty planet of Polysorbate LX while running into an incredible number of farcical video game, computer, pop-culture and movie references. Oh, and you’ll definitely love the cartoon-quality graphics and vastly updated point-and-click interface.

Now, as Space Quest 7 -or would it be VII?- never managed to survive the demise of Sierra and no more Space Quest games are to be released in the foreseeable future, seasoned veterans could go around and google for some mostly brilliant fanmade sequels and remakes. Alternatively, both them and gamers looking to dive into the taxing and surreal universe of Space Quest can go for Vivendi’s Space Quest Collection. It might not be the best collection possible (lacking a few game versions and coming with PDF manuals only), but it’s got the basics covered, runs brilliantly on the latest PCs and is rather cheap.

 

Classic Sierra PC Game site will return

Police Quest 1 screenshot
Police Quest 1 screenshot

Since 2009 the folks over at Sarien.net have been hosting classic Sierra PC games such as Space Quest, Police Quest and Kings Quest where fans of the classic series could log in a play without fee or ads. However, when the owners decided to optimize their site for use on the iPad it caught the online presses attention and attracted Activision.

With Activision owning the rights to the Sierra, titles and their wanting the option to see App store versions of the popular games in the future, Sarien.net received a cease-and-desist letter from Activision’s lawyers.

The site was shut down and when replying to the lawyers to let them know they complied the owners asked if there was anyway the site could continue.

“The next day I received a kind reply from Activision’s law firm, and I actually do mean ‘kind,'” Kool writes. “This new letter I received contained a proposal.”

The proposal was to allow Sarien.net to reopen and publish the first game from any of the series he had before in the multiplayer mode they had built for the website, except for Leisure Suit Larry, which is a Codemasters license. In addition, they are to provide links to the digital versions of the game where fans of the series could buy the original if they like.

Score one for classic gaming sites and fans who love them and score one for Activision who will get some good press from this and may add interest to launching app versions of classic Sierra games.

Jon Hamblin: Big Ideas Digital

Big Ideas Digital logo
Big Ideas Digital logo

Name: Jon Hamblin

Company: Big Ideas Digital

Profession: Lead Designer

Favorite Classic Game: Police Quest II

Quote: “Ok, the Sierra games weren’t as cool as the Lucasarts adventures, but Police Quest II is a perfect storm of Miami Vice action and procedural pedantry, making it one of the greatest cop comedies ever. Far from the parking violations of the first game, the sequel revolves around Miami Vice-style jailbreaks, kidnappings, terrorism and motel sieges. But the key to Police Quest II’s brilliance is that they let ex-Highway Patrolman Jim Walls design the game. Imagine if Fast and Furious had been directed by a driving instructor (“Sorry Vin, you didn’t check your quadrants before jumping the flaming car into the fireworks factory – we’re going to have to do another take”), and you’ll start to get an idea of what I’m on about. Every time the game threatens to get exciting, good old Jim steps in and shows you how things would really go down. Don’t declare your gun before pursuing a suspect through an airport security metal detector? Shot dead by the Security guard. Challenge the terrorist on the plane without correcting the sighting on your gun at the range? A missed shot and a face full of machine gun kisses. Forget to put on your gas mask while running through the sewers? Death from a pocket of methane fumes.

 

Seriously, this a game in which you can die simply by crossing the road without waiting for the little green man. After a while, I began to think – maybe Jim Walls isn’t a pedant – maybe he’s just incredibly accident-prone. I mean, the poor man must be unable to open a can of beer without accidentally slashing his wrists open, only to be greeted with a giant hovering image of his own gurning face, telling him what a moron he is. Hilarious.”

 

Bio: Big Ideas Digital makes apps and games for all smart phone platforms. If you have great content, we have Big Ideas.

Say What You See
Say What You See

Project: Say What You See: The Collection

Project Info: Our current games project is Say What You See: The Collection, a hidden object-game where you have to find movie titles cryptically hidden as rebus puzzles in beautiful hand-painted scenes. It’s great fun to play with friends in a bar, at home on the couch, or even in the John. Some players have even dreamt solutions to its devious puzzles – why not give it a go and see if you can escape it’s cryptic clutches?


Marie Croall: Fallen Earth LLC

Fallen Earth logo

Name: Marie Croall

Company: Fallen Earth, LLC

Profession: Senior Game Designer for Fallen Earth

Favorite Classic Game: King’s Quest

Quote: This was one of the first games I ever played obsessively.  Even at my young age, the humor and puzzles appealed to me—even if the phrase “You can’t do that…at least not now” is permanently burned into my brain.


Greg Wohlwend: Mikengreg

Mikengreg logo

Name:Greg Wohlwend

Company: Mikengreg

Profession: Lead Greg

Favorite Classic Game: Quest for Glory II: Trial By Fire

Quote: My brother and I were obsessed with this game. It came on a dozen or so 3.5″ hard disks (high tech back then) and included a semi-complete faux vellum map. Most of the game took place in either a huge city or a huge desert with tons of little secrets hiding everywhere. That, coupled with the fact that you had to type out most of your actions, made for a world that really felt alive. Plus there was num-pad based real-time combat and different character classes to choose from with different quest lines for each. Though, it’s not the feature list that makes this game great, it’s the love that it was made with that shines through in the end.


You can check out one of Mikengreg’s games Solipskier here for free at this link.

Chris Campbell and Adrian Woods: Big Fish Games

Big Fish Games logo
Big Fish Games logo

Name: Chris Campbell

 

Company: Big Fish Games

 

 

Profession: Senior Producer

 

Favorite Classic Game: King’s Quest III

 

Quote:

 

It has magic, pirates and an abominable snowman! The feeling of tension when trying to collect the ingredients and cast the spell before Manannan came back to the house was palpable. The reward of finally giving him the “special” porridge and gaining your freedom still stands out in my mind as one of my favorite moments ever in a game!

Name: Adrian Woods

 

Company: Big Fish Games

 

 

Profession: Designer

 

Favorite Classic Game: Bard’s Tale

 

Quote:

 

My summer of ’85 was spent mapping dungeons on grid paper with the Bard and company. A buddy and I backed our computers together, and played Bard’s Tale 3 cooperatively from start to finish in less than two days!