By Leigh Alexander on August 6th, 2014 at 1:00 pm.
I’ve been doing a series of Let’s Play videos exploring old adventures, text games and lost design forms from the 1980s Apple IIe and Commodore 64 era. In a time when young men shout over new action games, I will talk softly over strange old ones. Come along on a visitation of a different era that’s one part meditations on my childhood, one part adventure game criticism, and one part preservation effort. Bonus: Everyone says the quiet talk, lo-fi handmade feel and keyboard tapping triggers ASMR responses. Please enjoy!
Sometimes when I do this series I play games I have strong memories of from childhood; others I discover for the first time thanks to the magic of emulation. Usually I do a good bit of research beforehand, and practice solving some of the puzzles in the hopes of being able to show the best bits, and to demonstrate the particular breed of problem solving that was useful to adventure games in the early 80s — a blend of spatial awareness and deductive reasoning.
I stumbled upon this week’s journey, Crimson Crown, by accident, and within just a few minutes I decided I had to dive in and hit record, even though I hadn’t learned much yet. I wanted to share with viewers the sense of awe and discovery I was experiencing. The art is just amazing: With just a few colors, the game creates a rich, atmospheric fantasy forest and its adjacent caverns. This is also one of those games where, by default, you have companions.
Although older text-only games and dungeon crawlers often had people with you based on simple AI, and you could tell them to do things (remember The Hobbit?), this particular mode of graphics-accompanied parser game usually keeps things as simple as possible. Crimson Crown, though, gives you two companions: Sabrina the princess, and Erik, the heir to the throne. It really changes the tone of the experience when you know you have people with you.
As a kid I played Dallas Snell’s Ring Quest a lot, in part because I was inexplicably in love with the needy, easily befuddled cave man that came along, greedily dredged my waterskins and scolded me when I made poor decisions. I’d love to show you Ring Quest eventually, as I loved that game and I’d also love an excuse to interview Mr. Snell, but on emulation it loads very, very slowly from one screen to the next and I fear frustrating people.
Anyway, after spending some time with the impeccable Crimson Crown, I learned it was the second game in the early-80s Transylvania series published by Penguin Software — and that I was not off-base at all by being reminded of Ring Quest, as it’s the same publisher and Dallas Snell himself would have been responsible for the parser, at least, if not the writing and the graphics. We’d better get in touch with him!
Crimson Crown contains a beautifully-drawn owl, a gryphon, a spooky sage, and concludes with an arresting image. INTRUDER. Brr! Please enjoy!
The entire Lo-Fi Let’s Play series is available and regularly updated at my YouTube channel if you’d like to subscribe, but my friends at RPS are graciously syndicating them here from now on, with some additional written analysis and commentary.