dorchadas: (Enter the Samurai)
I suppose I should technically put "Hero Quest I" in the title, but I'll get to that.

I grew up on Sierra adventures, your Kings' Quest and Spaces' Quest. But those actually came later. The first Sierra adventure game I ever played was this one, at a friend's house when we were playing around on his parents' computer. I really took to its weird combination of genre styles and, ignoring the message at the beginning of the game about piracy, I borrowed the disks from him and copied the game to my computer, where I proceeded to play it obsessively. This was around when Quest for Glory III: Wages of War came out, so I bought that and imported my character--which blew my mind, by the way--and continued his adventures, and that began a love affair that lasted to this day.

I'm not the only one. I played Heroine's Quest last year, a game that was clearly and obviously inspired by the Quest for Glory games. But I haven't played the original in over a decade, and now that I'm on vacation, and since I still remember the solutions to all the puzzles, why not?

You called?

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dorchadas: (That is not dead...)
When I was young and had newly acquired an original Nintendo, I went shopping one day for a game with my parents. I fixated on a game--I no longer remember what it was--and told my father that I wanted it. He looked it at dubiously and suggested something different, a game I had never heard of called Maniac Mansion. I looked at the cover, with the house and the five misfits on the cover and the weird face in the background, and I turned it out. It didn't look exciting. It didn't have Mario or explosions or spaceships on it. Would I really like this? Despite his attempt to convince me, I rebuffed his suggestion and insisted on my initial choice.

Well, it turns out that maybe I should have gone with my father's choice. I spent years after playing adventure games on the PC and I don't even remember what game it was I wanted so badly. I've always remembered the game that my father suggested, though, and now that it's October and I'm looking for spooky games to play, I thought it was finally time that I sit down and do so.

Arson, murder, and jaywalking.

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dorchadas: (Grue)
Ah, shareware. Source of so much of my gaming in the 90s. It's how I played Castle of the Winds, Jill of the Jungle, Solar Winds, Aethra Chronicles, Doom, and a ton of other titles, a lot of which were forgettable. This one, for some reason, stuck with me. Maybe because unlike the other ones I mentioned, I never managed to beat it the first time around. I clearly remember winning Castle of the Winds 1 and spending hours grinding on the last level available before I convinced my father to send away for volume 2, which meant I was grossly overleveled for it when I finally played it and easily blew through the game, but with Dare to Dream 1 I couldn't beat it except on easy mode. As such, it remained in my memory, in the space I'm wasting by dedicating it to games I haven't beaten yet, and and so I sat down with [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd to play through it once I found that the whole trilogy was available online.

Abandonware is in a tricky place legally, but I don't care that much when it comes to Dare to Dream. Unlike a lot of the titles available on GOG, where it just takes some tinkering with DOSBox to get them working fine even on up-to-date systems, Dare to Dream is a Windows game. A Windows 3.1 game, and good luck getting that to run. On Windows 7 it's possible with a virtual machine, but now that I have Windows 10 I'd have to install Windows 3.1 through DOSBox, emulating an OS while I'm emulating an OS, and even then I'd have to get the files from somewhere because it's not for sale anywhere anymore. So browser gaming it is.

Just like real life.

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dorchadas: (Not the Tale)
Wadjet Eye is one of those names I've heard multiple times in connection with the revival of point-and-click adventure games as a mainstream concern. Not that they ever went anywhere, really--Hardcoregaming101's Guide to Classic Adventure Games points out that the problem was never that adventure games were losing popularity. They just weren't growing much, and back in the 90s when everyone was chasing graphics because all those extra polygons were objectively superior leading to bigger and bigger budgets, that just wasn't enough. Like interactive fiction, though, adventure gaming never really died. But studies like Wadjet Eye and Telltale Games are responsible for for a lot of that. Loom's Brian Moriarty even mentioned in a GDC talk he did on Loom that he'd be willing to turn over the rights to Wadjet Eye to the sequel that LucasArts never did, which for my view is pretty high praise. Sadly, the rights are lost in intra-company IP agreement hell, but it speaks to Wadjet Eye's quality that he'd consider it.

Gemini Rue isn't actually made by Wadjet Eye, just published by them, but their logo does flash up at the start of the game and it's all the things I associate with Wadjet Eye games. A pixel art point-and-click adventure in the style of the games I played of old, but with modern sensibilities. Not as many bullshit deaths as Sierra games, not as many obscure puzzles as LucasArts games. A happy medium, bringing the old genre into the modern age. Old adventure games aren't as bad as many people make them out to be--not everything was the cat hair mustache puzzle--but Gemini Rue does a lot to smooth over the old problematic aspects. You can't get stuck, it's pretty hard to die, and there are no puzzles where the creator assumes you'll either think in exactly the same sort of twisted logic as they do or else click literally everything on everything else in order to figure them out.

Well, maybe a little of the latter. It is a point-and-click adventure game.

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dorchadas: (Not the Tale)
The Gabriel Knight games are one of the few game series where my sister can claim more knowledge than I can. She bought Gabriel Knight III when it came out, and while I never played it because of the III in its name--which seems odd in hindsight, because I had no problem starting King's Quest with King's Quest V, other than fifteen minutes played at a friend's house--but my sister played and beat the whole game. Without walkthroughs, if I remember right, though I know that she had [ profile] uriany's assistance with some of the puzzles. I don't know how she beat the cat hair mustache puzzle, but she did.

And now, I follow in the trail she blazed a decade and a half ago, though starting with the first game instead of the third game. As you do, when all the games are available for cheaper than they've ever been and will run on basically any platform you have. Thank you,

Note: this review will contain spoilers from here on out. You have been warned.

Based on how people react to him, this is not a spoiler.

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dorchadas: (For the Horde!)
I'm not sure how generally useful or applicable this review will be, even beyond the normal subjectivity that is inherent in any kind of review, because Heroine's Quest is a direct homage to the old Hero's Quest / Quest for Glory series of games and those were foundational for me as a young child. I'm not sure why I took to them as well as I did, but their particular combination of point-and-click adventure and RPG gameplay drilled itself directly into my brain and lodged itself there for eternity, to the point where I downloaded a Pathfinder adaptation despite never having run Pathfinder, never having played Pathfinder, and, indeed, never having even read Pathfinder.

The games came out before RPG elements were cynically added to every game under the sun as a way to encourage grinding of arbitrary numbers and artificially extend play time--though after books like the excellent Lone Wolf and Fighting Fantasy series, which are basically novel versions of the adventure game/RPG hybrid--and one of the benefits of those elements is that because the games were designed to be completed with three classes, there are always multiple solutions to puzzles, which does a lot to reduce the frustration from adventure game logic. There are some puzzles that need specific items to solve, but generally even if you're playing a thief you can try smashing your way through if you can't find out the right lock to pick.

Always wizards forever.

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dorchadas: (Green Sky)
I honestly think that some of the reason I love roguelikes so much, why I mod games like Oblivion and Skyrim and Fallout 3 and XCom to be much harder, and why I'm so excited to play Dark Souls is because I grew up on Sierra adventure games. You have died isn't exactly something I'm unfamiliar with. Neither is permadeath, really--realizing that you forgot to do something or pick up an item six hours ago and have been playing in an unwinnable state since then and all your saves are worthless is pretty much adventure game permadeath.

There was one LucasArts adventure game I played that bucked these trends, though. Loom.

There's a kind of poignant mood over the beginning that this line sums up.

I never played any other LucasArts games even though I loved X-Wing to death, but Loom really affected me as a child. We had the PC CD version with the voices and the CD quality music, and while the version I played now was the FM Towns version, which has the enhanced graphics of the CD version but the unabridged script of the EGA version, I could often hear the lines in my head when the text appeared. If you want to hear what I did, there's a Loom Longplay on YouTube. I still get a little shiver when she says "Welcome to the age of the Great Guilds."

I actually dressed up as Bobbin Threadbare for Hallowe'en when I was nine or ten. My mother made me a blue robe, and I got a walking staff and attached a glowstick to the end of it. I wore that robe for years as essentially a bathrobe, if I didn't want to get dressed on Sunday mornings, until I grew too small for me and eventually I got rid of it. The staff was in the corner of my room at least until high school, but I think I threw it away when I left for university. It barely came up to the chest at that point anyway.

Loom was unique among the point-and-click adventures I played in that there isn't any inventory or combining of inventory items. The only item Bobbin ever picks up in the game is the distaff that allows him to weave drafts, and drafts take the place of inventory items. You start off learning how to Open--which is a net cast as widely as possible, since while you can open doors and cages and so on, there's an early puzzle that requires you to Open the sky, and trying to cast Open on your mother's grave goes almost all the way to ending very poorly--and over the course of the single day that Loom takes place on, Bobbin learns how to Reflect others' appearances onto himself, turn Straw into Gold, become Invisible, Untwist twisted objects from a spiral stair to a tornado, and Unmake the fabric of reality.

Here's Bobbin changing those awful green bits of cloth into white.

The distaff is at the bottom of the screenshot, and the notes there are musical notes. Each draft is a series of four notes, and some of them can be reversed by playing the notes backward. In the game I just played--there's three or four variants and it could be any of them--was CCCD, with DCCC as the way to Undye. There's no way in the game to remember them, so the game shipped with a Book of Patterns that had a list of all the drafts in the game, plus a couple more that you see used but never actually learn, and another dozen that never appear anywhere but are included just for lorebuilding. That's the kind of thing that the demise of physical manuals full of lore has people like me lamenting for.

Sure, there are codex entries for games like Dragon Age or Mass Effect, but it's not quite the same. It might just be that the circumstances that led to actually reading lore books are mostly gone. The best time for reading them used to be when the game was installing, while you were eagerly watching the progress bar and looking for every scrap of information you could find in the meantime. Nowadays, I can just install games in the background while I do something else, and while that is objectively superior, I love those little lore books.

Including notes from smaller me.

For Loom specifically, there was even an audio drama that shipped with the game, though I don't think it came with the CD version. It has a half-hour of backstory, telling you who the Guild of Weavers are, why there's barely a handful of them left (spoiler: "Thou Shalt Not Marry an Outsider" doesn't work over the long term), why they're living alone on a tiny island, and why it is that everyone seems to hate Bobbin Threadbare. I didn't have that, so Loom had an incredible sense of mystery for me. Was this supposed to be the future of our world, and that's why the dates are all set in the far future (it's the year 8000-something in the game)? What was it that caused the world to divide themselves into the Guilds? Is that sense of loss and isolation, somewhat remnant of the elves in The Lord of the Rings, an intentional feeling? None of that ever comes up in the game, but it kept my interest.

You probably could have guessed that.

I wasn't as fond of the FM Towns version as I was of the PC version, and I'm having some trouble teasing out whether it's just nostalgia for the old version or whether I have actual legitimate criticisms. The unabridged script is nice, but I feel like the language in the CD version flows a lot better and sounds better too. You can see an example of some of the differences here, as well as examples of graphical differences. I do think missing the full-screen portraits is a loss, and it was nice to see those. Elder Atropos has some fantastic eyebrows in his full-screen shot.

Another thing I didn't like is the music. That's not phrased quite right, because I love Loom's music, which means what I actually love is Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake because all the music is directly adapted from it. However, on the PC version, the music is used quite sparingly and the notes of the drafts that Bobbin has to learn are pretty easy to pick out. This is important because the difficulty level at the beginning of the game determines the interface. On the hardest difficulty, the notes aren't visible and there's no feedback for the drafts other than listening, but in the FM Towns version there's music playing constantly throughout the whole game and the notes of the distaff are barely audible. I can't imagine how annoying it would be to try to play Loom on Expert that way.

That's why I didn't try it. I was fine going through the story I remember so well, which is only a couple hours long and where it's impossible to ever put yourself in an unwinnable state. Considering I failed several games of King's Quest back in the day because I forgot something in the beginning of the game and then arrived at the end only to find myself unable to proceed, that's nice. I really need to play more LucasArts games, and now that there's remastered versions of Grim Fandango out and Day of the Tentacle coming, they just need to announce Full Throttle remastered and I'll hit the games I really want to play that I missed back in the day.

When I was very young, we were at the store and I wanted an NES game. I don't even remember what it was, but my father suggested that I get Maniac Mansion instead. I didn't listen to him, but now I'm pretty sure I should have.

This will obviously end in tears.

Loom ends on one of the most obvious cliffhangers I've ever seen, but there was never a sequel, apparently because no one at LucasArts was really interested in working on one. I've learned quite recently that there's a fan-made sequel called Forge, the first part of part of which is playable, and that Brian Moriarty said he's finally up to making a sequel at GDC, but apparently the rights are so hopelessly tangled that Forge is probably all we're likely to get. There is a the Loom postmortem that he did at GDC that's up for free, though.

The game wasn't as affecting for me now as it was when I was a pre-teen, but it's still a good game, even though it's pretty short and not even remotely challenging. I love worldbuilding and I have a fan's obsessive need to know more and more about the worlds I'm interested in, but I still realize that what's left unsaid can be as or more important as what is said. On that score, Loom does quite well. It's been available on Steam for a while if you want to play it (as the PC CD version), and if you don't want to play it yourself, that longplay is about as long as a movie and at least as interesting.


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