Gaming Made Me, #4: John Walkthrough

By John Walker on July 9th, 2009 at 1:30 pm.

See, fattest too.

I go last because I’m ugliest. That’s just the way it works at RPS. So after Jim, Alec, and Kieron, it’s my turn to try to pick a collection of games that have defined me as a gamer, and indeed defined me as a person. It’s a daunting task.

Ingrid’s Back!

So very pretty. I'm fairly sure we played the version without graphics.

In truth, I couldn’t tell you a single thing that happens in this Level 9 text adventure. I know it stars a gnome, and her name is Ingrid, and it’s the sequel to Gnome Ranger about which I know even less. I played it on the Spectrum 48K when I was 10 years old, but crucially, and here’s why it’s the first game in a list of my most significant games, I played it before it was released.

If you were to have visited my house when I was ten, in 1988, you’d have had a good chance at accurately predicting my future career. Sat next to my dad (who is a dentist in work hours), playtesting pre-release text adventures. There’s a good chance I might have even written something about it for the Adventure Probe zine (to steal Kieron’s gag: the other AP), to which my father regularly contributed, and certainly the first place I had any games writing published. I think we were playtesting it for bugs as a favour for someone my dad knew at Level 9, but I might be making that part up. As you can tell, the game itself isn’t the important part here. It happens to be a rather good one, scoring some pretty decent reviews at the time. But for me, it’s more a snapshot of my past that seemed to be programming me for the future.

The strange thing is, if you’d visited my house three or four years later you’d never have been able to draw the same conclusions. My teenage years were spent playing endless games on many machines, still adoring the pursuit. But my career was to be in microbiological sciences. Of course, if I’d spent more time doing homework and less time playing games, perhaps that might have happened. It wasn’t to be, and a passion for writing and a love of games brought me here. But I don’t think for a second I’d be a hardcore story gamer, and certainly not a games critic, were it not for those times sat next to my dad, playing through games we’d received before publication. And whenever I think about that time, it’s Ingrid’s Back that comes straight to mind. You know, apart from what happened in it.

Dungeon Master

This image is so madly evocative for me.

I’m going to return to my dad again here. Clearly he has been an enormous influence on my gaming habits, having bought a ZX81 in the early 80s, and then kept up with non-console machines ever since. We went off on different paths once the 3D dungeon crawlers spawned FPSs, and adventure games became point-and-click, him staying with RPGs. But long before this, in 1987, came Dungeon Master.

I’m tempted to tell stories of playing Buggy Boy with my sister, or Bubble Bobble in co-op with my friend Alistair (that story told in part here), but the Atari ST story that defines me most has to be watching my father beat the level 13 boss in Dungeon Master. So this would be around 1987, I’d have been 9 or 10. At this time my dad’s ST was set up on the breakfast bar in the kitchen, where he would spend his evenings hunched over the machine in the corner of the room, the kitchen door banging into him when opened too quickly. I would love to pull up a stool next to him and watch him playing games, inevitably eventually asking him if I could have a go, ruining whatever progress he was making in whatever he was playing.

You can read about all the many firsts Dungeon Master achieved in its Wikipedia entry. But it’s safe to say it was a landmark game, played in real time, in an approximation of 3D, using mouse and keyboard controls. It was a new experience for anyone who played it, the safety of turn-based combat taken away from you, enemies able to attack when they chose, even if you weren’t done getting your potion ready. I remember playing my own saves of the game (never getting beyond the fourth or fifth floor, I suspect), and the thrill of mixing spells in flasks, successfully creating fireballs from their component parts, preparing for a battle ahead. It was a game that forced you into seeking sanctuary, no longer able to rely on the world patiently pausing while you sorted yourself out. A room with a closable door, ideally with a couple of empty chests for storing your excess inventory, was a haven, a safeground to which you could retreat, hide, recover, and prepare. This sense of safety only emphasised the sense of danger outside. The threat of an enemy, chasing you down corridors (admittedly in leaps across tiles), hurting your party of four when it got near, often became terrifying. I remember fumbling at the controls, throwing bottles of water at skeletons instead of poison, fluffing things up so badly that members of my team would have their portraits hideously replaced with messes of bones and a skull. Characters with names and skills and possessions and armour. People I’d chosen from that peculiar gallery at the start of the game, clicking on paintings of their faces to have them join my gang. Dungeon Master was a game of fear and recovery, danger and relief. It frightened me greatly. But not my dad. My big, strong dad.

But he looks so cuddly!

Until level 13. Forgive me if I’m getting these numbers wrong, but from memory the titular dungeon was fourteen storeys deep. On the very bottom floor the eponymous Dungeon Master lived, the final scene of the game. But on the floor above him was a giant red dragon, an enormous enemy that required one hell of a fight. I was there the day my dad first encountered the dragon, sat next to him at the kitchen counter, watching him expertly play. Watching his hand shaking on the mouse.

Shaking. His whole hand trembling with genuine fear at the fight. My dad’s big, strong hand.

Day Of The Tentacle

Oh, stop liking other LucasArts games more than this one! Look at it!

In these exciting times of LucasArts appearing to rise from the ashes of Star Wars tedium, with remakes of Monkey Island, and selections from their back catalogue appearing on Steam, there’s one cry coming out from my soul: WHAT ABOUT DAY OF THE TENTACLE?!

I’m often very surprised by how many other games are mentioned before it when people list their favourite adventures. Monkey Island 1 or 2, Fate Of Atlantis, Sam & Max, and most of all, Grim Fandango. But for me it’s Day Of The Tentacle first and foremost, on a tall mountain, waving a giant flag. Alec has previously eulogised the Sam & Max opening sequence (as wonderful as they are), but I don’t think it comes close to DOTT’s ludicrously well written, animated and performed intro. Indulge me a moment:

DOTT understood what being a cartoon was all about. It was an adventure game first, but it was a cartoon a very close second. As such, it was able to embrace cartoon logic into its already astonishingly clever time-travel story. David Grossman and Tim Schafer writing and directing characters created by Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick (DOTT was of course a sequel to Maniac Mansion) – it was the dream team.

And for me, it was the game that just bellowed everything I could ever ask for (but for pathos, arguably, but of course that would have been wildly out of place here). I want it to be fantastically well written, I want the puzzles to be both obscure and rewarding, and most of all, I want it to be funny. I’ve spent my career lamenting gaming’s failure to achieve these three things.

I especially remember buying it. There was a shop in Guildford, upstairs in the White Lion Walk shopping centre, called Ultima. It was run – and I promise this is true – by a short, fat, moustachioed Italian man called Mario, who ran the business with his brother. Endless amusement. Also working there was a tall, astonishingly morose guy called Adam – someone I used to drive mad by visiting every Saturday and talking at about games, his laconic, cynical responses unable to puncture my enthusiasm. (Oddly I ended up working with him at an EB years later, and he hadn’t changed at all.) So, one Saturday I went in the yellow shop and saw the Day Of The Tentacle boxes. Of course I’d read that a new LucasArts adventure was on the way, but what I didn’t know was that it would be packed in a huge, triangular box. (Thanks to Petërkopf for finding the pic of it.) What a moment.

I think DOTT was the first time I found myself wanting to quote a game. I’d been loving wonderful Sierra and LucasArts games for years previously, but nothing quite sang to me like this. I would do impressions of the characters (I still do as I play it now). I knew the solutions to all the puzzles, but the scenes were so great it was worth playing through them again. It made me believe in gaming as a medium for hilarity.

I think what DOTT has done for me more than anything else is give me a sense of expectations that I deserve. Comedy games may be 99% terrible, but because of Day Of The Tentacle, I remember that there’s no excuse for it, there’s no room for accepting rubbish out of desperation for something. A bar was set in 1993, and I refuse to let it get me down that the only person who’s met it since has been the guy who put it there in the first place, Schafer. It keeps me honest. It makes sure I remember what others should be doing, and acts as a place to point toward when they’re not. Of all the story-led games in the world, I think it’s the only one I could play again and again and again.

Lemmings

Perhaps this is a bit of an obvious choice. If you draw a graph of puzzle gaming, there’s one bloody great spike at Lemmings that makes it rather stand out. But if you can tolerate my getting so ambiguously anecdotal again, it was the moment as much as the majesty of the game.

Here’s the ambiguous part. (I’d phone my parents to get some clarity on these stories were they not out the country this week.) My dad was visiting a friend of his, who was another 40-something gamer. I had gone along, and circumstances were such that when the two of them went off to have a meeting about something or other, I was left entertained in front of a PC running a copy of Lemmings. I vaguely remember that the room with the PC was in a separate building from this (obviously pretty well-off) guy’s main house. I also strongly remember that playing in the background was an album by Chris Rea. I’m fairly convinced it was Road To Hell, although it could well have been Auberge, since that came out the year before, in 1991. I’d have been thirteen by this point.

I’ve no idea how long I was left in that room. What I do know is that I was utterly content. I had this remarkable, beautiful, almost-perfect puzzle game to play, featuring the gorgeous animations of the floppy-haired blue/green suicidal creatures, guiding them to safety. This was a game that utterly, utterly worked. There’s a reason why every single World Of Goo review called back to Lemmings – it was the last time a game had felt so engrossing, so joyful, and just so right. It was like I’d been left with something so special I shouldn’t have been trusted with it.

It was like I’d walked into a magical house, the sort of place that had to be specially built to contain something as enjoyable as Lemmings. I think I assumed it wouldn’t be possible to play it again once I left. I don’t think I ever loved it as much as I did that time, as it happens. Although I do specifically remember the almost equally magical joy of getting Holiday Lemmings for free on the front of a magazine the next year, and not being able to understand how something so wonderful was just there, for free, for me to enjoy. I don’t think I will ever play Lemmings again. It simply cannot be as good as I remember, and certainly the twenty year old graphics won’t do it justice. I’d like to keep it how it exists in my mind just now, inside that specially created room, with Chris Rea crooning mournfully in the background.

The Longest Journey

Well of course.

If anyone were taking bets about which games I’d include in this collection, no one would have accepted money for the appearance of The Longest Journey. I’ve written so much about it, and uniquely, written very personally about it on many occasions. Some people have the album they heard that changed their lives. Others credit a book with shaking up their perspective on the world. For me it was a point and click adventure with some of the worst puzzles you’ll ever find.

The timing was interesting. Released in late 1999, this was around the same time I was starting out as a games critic, getting my first work in PC Gamer. I’m sure I must have read previews of it, enough to be interested in it, and certainly enough to know to ignore Steve Brown’s daft review of it in PCG ish 83. (Love you Steve, obviously. But I’ll also never forgive you for that.) I’d been writing occasionally in the mag for about four issues by this point, and I remember my fury as I read the one page of banging on about the game featuring a blue penis and swear words. It became my mission to mention the game in every review I wrote (handily PC Gamer had a bit at the bottom of each review at the time that let you recommend two other games that were similar – no matter how dissimilar, The Longest Journey got a mention, along with a dig at how wrong the original 79% review was).

But more importantly, I was 22. I was freshly an adult, seeking my first proper job, and venturing into real life. And at that moment, here I had a game about 18 year old April Ryan, finishing college, and venturing into real life. Except of course her real life became decidedly unreal. I was malleable, changing, finding my philosophies (Deus Ex would of course come along a year later and work on that too), and The Longest Journey contained one message that transformed me.

To play the game now, you’ve got a peculiar mix of beautiful painted backdrops and fuzzy, pixellated messes for characters. You’ll find some completely atrocious puzzles (none more so than the policeman on toilet/glass eye/medication puzzle that doesn’t work in 124 different ways). You’ll also find a script written by someone who’d been watching an awful lot of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. But here’s the important bit: it was someone who not only was clearly influenced by Whedon’s writing, but was as good at it as Whedon.

I’m obviously horribly underselling the game in some ways. But I’m trying to maintain some level of reality here too. It wasn’t perfect. But it was human. So incredibly human in a way I’m not sure any other game has come close to. You may have been playing a stroppy late-teenage girl who was friends with a talking crow… in the future. But you were playing a real person, interacting with other real people, in real ways, despite the hover-cars, alternative realities, and rubber-duck-themed puzzles. April’s stroppiness was a facet of her complex character – a person also capable of enthusiasm, love, fury, fear, joy, optimism and a wry, sneaky humour. She was someone with whom I engaged very strongly.

Which is crucial to the impact TLJ had on me. (I almost resent writing this warning, but the following will spoil the end of the game.) April Ryan isn’t the hero of The Longest Journey. She isn’t the saviour of the worlds. She doesn’t restore the balance between Stark and Arcadia. She may be the daughter of the white dragon, or she may not. She may have some deep significance to the universe, but I’ve a sneaking suspicion it’s no more significance than anyone else alive. She plays her part, she affects the world/s around her, she makes important differences in people’s lives. She has an important role in the processes that lead toward the restoration of the Balance. But she isn’t the new nudie blue figure who will protect the lives of billions of people. She thinks she’s going to be, she wrestles with the fear of such a part to play, but at that final moment, that’s not her job. She isn’t the hero of the story.

I’d identified with her in a romantic desire to see myself as that sassy, witty person too. And because who doesn’t want to be the hero of the story? But then it turned out she wasn’t, and neither was I. It was this that widened my eyes: April was heroic. April was significant. April saved. April made a difference. But she wasn’t the hero, she wasn’t the saviour.

Our understanding of the part we’re supposed to play in the world is perhaps something we struggle with our entire lives. April was shown a glimpse of something enormous that would give her life definition and meaning. It wasn’t hers, it didn’t turn out to be about her, and as Dreamfall so stunningly goes on to portray, facing this destroyed her. But I realised this wasn’t a message of destruction or failure. It was about the reality of how important each person is, and the potential everyone has to make a significant difference to the world, but without the world ever noticing them. It’s about matching the desire to see change with the humility to realise no one will know to care that you did.

Balance wouldn’t have been restored without someone playing the part April filled. April’s actions made a difference, even if they didn’t culminate with her as the glowing figure for all to see and admire. Someone else could have done her job instead of her, but it was April who did it. I realised that’s my role too. Anyone’s role. To seek out chances to make a difference, to fill the role that anyone else could, but to be the person who did.

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80 Comments »

  1. LewieP says:

    I really have a lot of love for DOTT. I think more than any other adventure game, it is filled with puzzles where you think “I bet I can solve this later when I get the right item”, and they stick in your mind, so that every time you find a new item, you can rack your brain for which puzzles you can now solve. Plus I am a sucker for a good time travel mechanic.

  2. Freudian Slip says:

    Ah Day Of The Tentacle, we meet again.

    Either I used to be amazing at puzzle games and not playing them for a while has made me forget the logic or the alcohol and the drugs have absolutely destroyed my ability to comprehend them.

    Maybe I just forgot how frustrated I was.

  3. fishmitten says:

    These features have been great reads. It’s got me remembering games I haven’t thought about for decades.

  4. CMaster says:

    I’t's been a couple of years since I last replayed Lemmings (on a friends mobile) but I recall it still holding up pretty well as brilliantly crafted, if often frustrating gameplay. Plus to me at least so many of the levels are iconic. From “it’s not as hard as it looks” and “just bashers” to “one way” so many of the early levels have their shapes and solutions stuck in my mind. Plus the music used, while existing pieces are now forever “lemmings music” to me.

    Going back to a post made on the last one of these – how do you RPS guys feel about other people taking this idea for articles and making their own? Would anyone at all be interested in reading them?

  5. jalf says:

    Oo, DOTT, TLJ and Lemmings. Really nice write-up on TLJ especially. The puzzles were horrible, but I played through it anyway. I wanted to see what happened.

  6. Five says:

    I remember Dungeon Master being quite terrifying.

    But the first time I played it was in a group of four, none of us realising we could click on the paintings in the gallery at the start of the game. We were getting enough fun from exploring the gallery and finding a painting we hadn’t seen yet.

  7. Carra says:

    I played through TLJ for the first time a year ago. And I do think that it’s one of the best adventures I’ve ever played. Yes, the fact that the characters are pixelated in otherwise beautiful decors is a bit annoying. But it had character and tons of it. The puzzles were quite good too. And those backgrounds, jummie!

    I did enjoy playing Lemmings on the sega. One of the most fun games I played on the sega.

  8. jalf says:

    But the first time I played it was in a group of four, none of us realising we could click on the paintings in the gallery at the start of the game. We were getting enough fun from exploring the gallery and finding a painting we hadn’t seen yet.

    Hah, someone should start a thread on “accidental” gaming experiences.

    Reminds me of how I discovered Civilization. We had to write an essay or small report or something on a freely chosen subject at school (must’ve been in 3rd or 4th grade or something. We couldn’t speak more than a few words of English yet), and we were allowed to do it in small groups. So a friend of mine who had an Amiga, suggested “hey, we should write about how the Earth was created and stuff. I’ve got this demo back home that shows it, so it’ll be super easy.” So yeah, we told our teacher that was what we wanted to do, went to his place, loaded the thing called “Civilization” up….. and were shocked to see that there was actually a game at the end of the slideshow sequence!

    I don’t remember anything else about the report we were supposed to write, but I do remember we spent a lot of the following time playing Civ.

  9. md says:

    Jesus – Dungeon Master was the ‘ST’s best selling product of all time’ ?! I remember playing it with a couple of friends in the dark, and *screaming* like leetle girl whenever we saw pretty much anything that moved. Or when the torch went out. Never got very far in it, which probably isn’t too surprising from the above. I’ve actually still got the disk here. awesome.

    Quite surprised Another World hasn’t made it onto any of these lists.

  10. Ian says:

    The Longest Journey is like Monkey Island for me, in as much that the story and the characters and the humour were good enough that I didn’t mind having to check walkthroughs to solve puzzles.

  11. Ludo says:

    I think this series has been my favourite thing RPS have done. Lots of funny and passionate writing. Thanks guys!

  12. James G says:

    I’ve already discussed one of my formative games in some detail over on the forum, but Lemmings was one of the first. (The first being an adaptation of Crowther and Wood’s Adventure) My obsession with it extended beyond the game, to conversation, doodles and imaginings. Its sequel was the first game I ever looked forward to the release of, and I remember eagerly pouring over previews and coming up with new skills which may have been included. I also remember crying in public shortly after the game was released. The pre-order had arrived while I was staying at my Grandparents, and my brothers had been first to play it. They hadn’t been impressed, and told me it was rubbish. The disappointment killed me. Of course, it wasn’t rubbish, and their conclusions were based on attempting to play the opening levels of the ‘sport’ world, the second of which is indeed a pretty poor level.

  13. Theoban says:

    Oh John Walker, you big soppy bloke you.

  14. Tim McDonald says:

    This is strikingly close to a list of games I’d probably do, I imagine. Dungeon Master and The Longest Journey would certainly place, and the former still gets an annual play. For me, it was the “This is my prisoner, let him suffer” bit, followed by “You will regret that” on an early floor. That section terrified me as a youngster.

    (I think the dragon was the very bottom floor, actually, with Lord Chaos on the floor above him – the side staircase had you visit the bottom floor first, though. Correct me if I’m wrong. It’s been awhile since I finished it.)

    Longest Journey is great for story, characters, atmosphere, sheer imagination, and, yes, all of the points raised, so I’ll leave it there to avoid rehashing most of the article. DoTT is great for all sorts of things, not least because LucasArts’ twisted internal puzzle logic has never been better or more consistent.

  15. whaleloever says:

    Can I just ask, is “Gaming Made Me” a reference to the Black Box Recorder song, or the Graham Greene novel? Or something else?

  16. Quine says:

    Ah, Dungeon Master! Mine came with the required extra 512k RAM pack for the Amiga, which was considered teh hardcore back in the day.

    Those fecking mummies made that bumping noise as they lurched towards you that scared me so much I had to turn the sound off and play the Cocteau Twins instead, which made for an interesting clash of pacing. Never got beyond about the sixth floor though when my reckless snoozing-for-health strategy came unstuck when everyone ran out of food.

    The magic system let you dangerously try to concoct your own rune strings which might yield unknown spells, which no-one seems to have done since then…

  17. Adrian says:

    I totally agree to Ludo! And i have to say this article realy reminds me of myself. I mean i wasnt testimg games when i was a kid but my dad also had a huge influence on my gaming back then (thank you dad SO MUCH) he bought my first computer and we spent hours playing games on it and Day of the Tentacle was one of the games i would play over and over again. id finish id and start a new game right away. same as little big adventure 2!

  18. Nighthood says:

    Commenting to help Walker win the comments competition. Also, lemmings was rather good, especially when you just decided to blow up ALL of them.

  19. techpops says:

    I deduct a point for dissing Buffy but give it back for the positive Whedon reinforcement.

    I’m really no good at adventures, they frustrate me mostly and silly puzzles don’t help but after seeing Longest Journey reviewed a few times, I really wanted to get into it. Sadly it just went to prove that I’m still no good at adventures and cheating with guides makes me feel dirty.

  20. Gav says:

    I was about 10 when I saw my sister’s Boyfriend play DOTT on his 486 and lamented that the shitty 386 we had wasn’t good enough to run it, with a measly 2MB of RAM (and had a monochrome monitor) but the desire to play the game just from watching the intro drove me into wanting a better PC and when I finally got it it was the first game I went out and bought… the White Label CD talkie version, that didn’t work well on Windows 95 and so had to have its own Dos 6.2 bootdisk… and people complain about Vista!

  21. MonkeyMonster says:

    DOTT wins hands down for me too on the lucasarts front. So many well thought through jokes plus the use of comments etc when you tried to use the wrong item…

  22. Gav says:

    Oops, hehe, I mean 2 MB of RAM… now 2 GB in 1993 that would have been something!

  23. Morph says:

    Awww… I almost had a tear in my eye. Almost though, not actually, because I’m a big manly man. Grrrr. Honest.

  24. D says:

    Bravo guys, well done

  25. Demikaze says:

    I remember sitting down with Lemmings for the first time when I was around ten years old. One morning, I turned it on and didn’t stop until nine hours later. No food, sunlight, nothing. I used to scribble down the password for each new level each time I progressed.

    Then the headache set in and I couldn’t look at a monitor or a television for around two days solid. It was very odd – all I would have to do is spot a display screen and it would feel like a knife to the brain.
    Luckily that stopped otherwise my hobby would have ended before it really began.

  26. Irish Al says:

    DOTT is the funniest LucasArts game. Anyone who says otherwise is clearly MAD and WRONG.

  27. Richard Beer says:

    Good choice of games, John, and very moving writing too! I think I tried TLJ once, but years after the release and too late to ignore the pixels I guess. After reading this, though, I’m almost tempted to give it another go. Ah, spare time for such idle pursuits, wherefore hast thou forsaken me?

    Dungeon Master was a strange game for me, because I never played it that much, but a friend of mine at school had it and a bunch of us would go round to his room some afternoons just to watch him play it. It sounds ludicrous (and a little sad) now, but it was entertaining even as a spectator game.

    Lemmings was the first game I actually dreamed a solution to. I was stuck on some particularly hard level for most of an evening and went to sleep thinking about it. I actually worked it out in a dream, woke up the following morning, and was kind of shocked when it did the trick.

  28. Cigol says:

    I go last because I’m ugliest
    I mean out of the 4 of you, yeah, I guess so, but that’s easily remedied by asking Tim Stone to do a similar piece this Sunday. He plays hexagonal war games. Surely he’s the ugliest?

  29. Petërkopf says:

    Great read as usual. You left out Grim Fandango! Even if you did hint at it, that game is the only one that’s left me feeling completely numb on completion. Like I’d lost a dear, dear friend.

    Oh, and is this the triangular box?

    http://www.thelegacy.de/pics/goodies/m/M_4812_1087121233_day_of_tentacle_triangle_1.jpg

  30. phil says:

    DOTT’s humour was a little too American for my taste, and let’s face it, compared to Grim Fandango it was a saturday morning cartoon, a good saturday moring cartoon, Ren and Stimpy perhaps, but a saturday morning cartoon none the less.

    Strangely I kept thinking of one of Final Fantasy 7′s big reveals (that the main character was originally just a shmuck stormtrooper, and not the big bad’s best friend as first thought) when I found out April wasn’t the chosen one, I liked the theme in both games, fullfilling prophercies as plot drivers were done to even back then.

  31. Clovus says:

    TLJ is definitely one of my favorite adventure games, but it was missing one thing: clunky combat. Unfortunately, they were never able to create sequal to fill that void.

  32. RHippy says:

    I knew that Ultima in Guildford well… one of the smaller weirder and generally more over-priced game-shops around at the time. I think I have a mug somewhere that I got for signing up for their loyalty card. It used to change colour, but the last 15 years have ruined it rather. I used to buy games for my Atari Lynx there, til the shop and the Lynx both died a death.

  33. The Sombrero Kid says:

    the game i’m making just now is quite heavily based on the Dott time travel mechanic.

  34. haliotabott says:

    Lemmings had music that i still hum to myself today – despite i havendt played it since the original came out.

  35. John Walker says:

    Petërkopf: you’re a hero – will edit that in later.

    RHippy: I have that very same mug. Not so dishwasher proof, was it? It’s still in the cupboard in my parents’ house, still used when I’m there to visit : )

  36. Kieron Gillen says:

    Graham Greene or Black Box Recorder: Both, of course.

    KG

  37. Phlebas says:

    Agreed about DOTT – Grim Fandango’s got a more sophisticated script and more lavish production values, certainly, but it doesn’t fit together quite so wonderfully as a game. And the interface is horrible – the directional navigation is clumsy and slow, and the people whining about the lack of object combination in Telltale’s games have presumably forgotten about the puzzle in Grim Fandango that required you to find the right place to put something down just so you could use another inventory object on it

  38. Vinraith says:

    Wow, 4/5 (everything but the text adventure off the front, likely a product of my early PC gaming being restricted to whatever my uncle bought as I didn’t have a computer of my own at the time) of those were huge influences on me as well, and for pretty much the same (really well articulated) reasons. Thanks for this, it was a nice nostalgia trip and a pleasant opportunity for introspection all in one. The Longest Journey section, in particular… I’d forgotten how much that game got to me.

    Anyway, on a related note, you might be interested to know that Lemmings has been completely ported to Nintendo DS homebrew, there’s a version of SCUMM VM that works on DS homebrew as well (and I can vouch that Day of the Tentacle will play under it), and while there is (sadly) no Dungeon Master port my three favorite games on the system are Etrian Odyssey’s 1&2 and the Dark Spire precisely because they’re the only western-style dungeon crawling RPG’s in the vein of DM/Wizardry I’ve even SEEN since Wizardry 8, and they’re exceedingly well done. I find I scratch a lot of my classical PC gaming itches with my DS (uh, don’t take that too literally).

  39. Helm says:

    Great article in a great series. Dungeon Master was really terrifying at the time… perhaps… still is? I think even Ultima Underworld still scares me some, especially when you don’t have a torch out and the blackness surrounds the scenery at 10 feet… truly nightmareland effect there.

    About TLJ, you know how we differ on that and I won’t invite debate anymore as I have the feeling it’s not welcome, but if you’ll allow a bit of an ‘objective’ critique here: the backgrounds were pre-rendered (and touched up where needed) they were not painted as you say in the article. Seriously. I’m not just saying this to progressively present arguments for TLJ hatred as usual, it just is the case.

  40. Peter Kay says:

    Nice article.. I don’t quite agree on the adventures, but they’re still good games.

    The issue with Another World is that it’s fundamentally not a very good game. It demands split second timing and multiple replays to win. Games should at least provide the possibility for you to survive when you don’t know what’s happening next; you can forgive it a lot for the graphics and music, but that’s fundamentally all that it’s got going for it.

    If I was really cruel, I could call it a modern Dragons Lair, and not be too far off the mark.

    TLJ is pretty damn good aside from some poor puzzles. Few adventures have made the successful transition to 3D (I don’t include Grim Fandango).

    Without a doubt DOTT is a funny and very well crafted game. However, it is very American. Fate of Atlantis works better, in my opinion, as all the background can be gathered from watching any of the Indy films.

  41. Kester says:

    I replayed DotT fairly recently, and was pleasantly surprised to find out just how many jokes there were for adults in there too. I remember loving it when I was a kid for the slapstick, but I suspect the joke about Nietzsche may have gone over my head.

  42. Choadle Bug says:

    Man, I love this site. You write such beautiful things.

  43. JonFitt says:

    Bravo guys. Excellent articles.

  44. Frans Coehoorn says:

    Nice set of articles guys! From what you all picked, I would say, in no particular order (plus one of my personal favourites):

    - Dune II: Battle for Arrakis
    - Day of the Tentacle (Secret of Monkey Island is awesome, but like what John said, comedy gold wins)
    - Half-Life
    - Quest for Glory IV (or the first EGA version called Hero’s Quest, in the good ol’ days. Can’t decide.)

    Runner-up would be Ultima VIII: The Black Gate. Or Ultima Underworld II. Or Tie-Fighter. Or Doom. Or StarCraft. Too many titles, ugh.

  45. smiff says:

    Delurking to thank Walker for this piece, particularly the exceptional section on TLJ. One of the very moments that games writing has genuinely tweaked an emotion out of me (and a few others, judging by the comments above). Outstanding.

  46. A Delicate Balance says:

    I loved Lemmings. I think I actually played it on the GameBoy most, since my sister had that version, but I also played the PC version. I only ever once got to play Lemmings 2 once, on the Acorn and I still have a vivid memory of feeling like “it wouldn’t be possible to play it again once I left” and, as it happens, I don’t think I ever have played it again or will probably, again, because “I’d like to keep it how it exists in my mind just now”.

    Also, the “Lemmings music” is definitely hard-wired into my brain. In particular “the cancan”… I don’t see dancing ladies when I hear it – I see Lemmings!

  47. Serondal says:

    I never played Dungeon Master. I did play Arcana (Which I think was more turn based and not real time) It was a game where your character’s were cards. I found that game to be extremly hard and most reviews I’ve read about it in recent years even said it was hard :P So I don’t feel so bad looking back lol. For some reason ever time I see dungeon Master I think of Dragon warrior and FF1 and Ultima IV and the gold box D&D games even though none of them are really related even by time. For some reason all these games evoke the same feeling me though. Great times sitting on the couch or in the computer chair exploring worlds beyond my own while my own world ticked away in the back ground. I feel like Michael Jackson having missed out on my childhood because I was so enthralled by these games I skipped being innocent and went straight to knowing things no young child needs to know. None of my friends knew how to kill vampires or the stages of a dragon’s growth or that people killed each other for money and loot :P

  48. sbs says:

    England Made Me is such a lovely, lovely song.

    Also lovely articles from you guys, obviously. Talk Quintin and Tim into writing one each please!

  49. pilouuuu says:

    It’s interesting how you remember games for the surroundings and place and time you were playing. I remember first playing DOTT in my dad’s job. He had to make something while I was left in a PC, so I wouldn’t be completely bored while waiting for hours.

    It was a PC with no sound card, but what an experience. The last Lucasarts game I played was probably The Secret of Monkey Island and even if this game had the same interface it was so amusing to see how the characters were so big and well animated like in a cartoon. I remember playing for hours nonstop and so excited everytime I solved a puzzle and advanced in the story.

    Then my dad came back and I was so happy and felt like a lived a life changing experience. One that showed me how amazing games can be!

  50. Owen says:

    Just wonderful John.

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