Eight of Infogrames’ weirder DOS games now on Steam

Legend of the Sci-Mutant Priestess

Archivists and collectors of strange and obscure old PC games can rejoice a little today. Last night, Classics Digital released another 8 emulated DOS games onto Steam. It’s an especially oddball collection from the early days of French publisher Infogrames, long before the company devoured and took on the name of Atari.

Being from the early, experimental days of PC game design, expect some strange adventures and even stranger UI decisions if you choose to dig into this collection, and more than a little 80s French sci-fi weirdness.

While I have oddly fond memories of several of these games from back in the day, I am acutely aware that I never completed any of them, and can’t shake the sense that I shouldn’t recommend them without a plethora of caveats. Of the eight, I’ve spent the most time on 1989’s Chamber of the Sci-Mutant Priestess, originally known as Kult: The Temple of Flying Saucers, which you can see in action below thanks to Youtube channel The Retro Spirit

Kult is one of the weirdest, most incomprehensible point and click adventures this side of Captain Blood. You have a psychic fetus built into your UI that gives you garbled guidance in phonetically spelled English. You are free to do almost anything to anyone (including wanton murder), and there is little indication that you’ve done the right thing. There are an ungodly-huge number of Dead Man Walking scenarios you can get into (backing yourself into an unwinnable situation), and just to top it all off there are several random elements in each playthrough, meaning your route through the game may change wildly between runs.

It’s a trip, and quite undeniably French, going a long way to defining the tone of this odd assortment of games. Outside of Kult, we’ve got early FMV lightgun-style shooter Chaos Control, genre-hopping tactical action game Hostage: Rescue Mission, Alone In The Dark-esque 3D adventure Time Gate: Knight’s Chase and esoteric and disorienting RPG Drakkhen. While thought of a little more positively on PC and Amiga, Drakkhen is most widely known as one of the worst games ever released on the Super Nintendo.

As an amusing aside, this disastrous live charity speedrun of Drakkhen is just about all you’d ever need to know about that game. Note the 50 minute completion estimate. Note the length of the video. Note that this is merely Part 1.

The rest of the releases include Westworld-inspired point and click adventure Eternam, FMV-laden historical business sim Marco Polo and finally the 1987 Atari ST port Bubble Ghost. As a game in itself, Bubble Ghost is perhaps a little bland, but it has some value as a foundational piece of gaming history, as this action-adventure puzzle game came from the studio that would later become Exxos (developers of Kult, Captain Blood and many other strange things), then later still disband and reform as Cryo Interactive.

All of the Classics Digital releases are available to buy on Steam now and hovering around the £4-5/$5-6 mark each.

20 Comments

  1. apa says:

    Hostage! That game was amazing (at the time), some kind of proto-Rainbow 6.

  2. Nelyeth says:

    Aaah, Info “G for good enough now let’s sell it” Rames. Known this side of the Channel for being the mastermind behind hundreds of rushed and appalling games. Although they (admittedly) made a few nice games, I can guarantee you there’s not a single man in France in the age range 25-35 that won’t have ‘Nam flashbacks when you mention them. Most famous offender was the SNES game “Tintin au Tibet”.

    Fun fact number one : they originally wanted to name their company “Zboub Système”, zboub being slang for dick. And by that, I don’t mean the Richard kind of dick. They finally settled for Infogrames after their legal counselor told them naming a company after genitals just wasn’t cool.

    Fun fact two : they chose the armadillo as their logo because “it just doesn’t die”, and they wanted their company to stand the test of time and attain immortality.

    Fun fact three : between 2000 and 2012, their stock market value plummeted by 99.9%, from 5160€ to 0.80€.

    • April March says:

      Well, armadillos live for about 30 years, so that’s around right.

  3. NuclearSword says:

    Alright, I’m kinda looking to pick up Eternam thanks to Ross’ Game Dungeon episode on it. It is…. one heck of a weird adventure game, lol. I’m sure I’ll get some entertainment out of it.

    Also interested in Time Gate too, thanks to Retro Gaming Wordsmith, Richard Cobbett. Though, his “Saturday Crapshoot” piece on the game was basically an ad to stay away from it unless you really enjoyed the original Alone in the Dark, it painted it out to be of interest to weird people like me fascinated by retro games from that era. And it’s, of course, entertaining af to read for just about anybody :D Link: link to pcgamer.com

  4. Ryos says:

    So Eternam is Westworld-inspired? that must be a VERY interesting design doc considering Eternam is a near quarter century Westworlds senior.

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      link to imdb.com

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        Risingson says:

        One of the frustrating things of getting old is, well, Westworld is an indispensable part of pop culture in my youth. I mean, a theme park ruled by robots. Everyone knew the story, there were references to it everywhere (cartoons, comedy series), everytime that it was played on tv we watched it, we all knew the names, we all knew Yul Brynner. And now, with google, imdb and everything, there is no need to cross reference anything when you like a product. No need to see the writing credits. You have access to interviews with the authors if you are intrigued, and usually people chose not to. We are in Brave New World.

      • Ryos says:

        Ah, my bad.

    • Ghostwise says:

      Vicarious embarrassment level – green.

  5. MasterWuu says:

    I have a sudden urge to find and play old games like Neuromancer

  6. Premium User Badge

    Risingson says:

    Though similar in spirit, some of these games do not come from Infogrames. Chamber/Kult, the Bubble Ghost game and Captain Blood come from the lovely fellows from ERE Informatique/Cryo, authors of Dune and KGB and loads of unique stuff that usually had very arguable game design decisions and wondeful graphics/music.

    The Infogrames ones at the time were Drakkhen, Eternam and Shadow of the Comet, trying to use the same engine for three kind of different games, and with wildly different results: Shadow of the Comet is good despite the engine (and a couple of puzzles), Eternam is sometimes good (mostly the beginning at the castle) but it could have lived perfectly without that 3D engine, and Drakkhen remains somehow memorable because of the engine and the monsters, not the rpg/adventure mechanics with barely any clue of what to do next. Impressive immersion though.

    I saw some Loriciel stuff in there as well – the Jim Power one. Loriciel had some lovely tech demos that sometimes were good games. I remember having a lot of fun with their tennis ones.

    Daemonsgate has among its designers this guy with a varied gaming career with just a selection of titles.

    Guys, really, I recommend you to dig into videogames now that you are here. Please don’t enter the apathy/disdain/I forgive you for living in the same universe as me attitude of some writers here with games and game designers. I think everyone deserves credit for their work, even when it’s not canonical.

    • and its man says:

      Hey, thanks for you precisions about the Ere Informatique/Exxos/Cryo paternity/maternity.
      Ere Informatique was actually sold to Infogrames in 1988, which allowed Ere to sell their games on a larger scale (notably on the US market).

      I’m glad to see Kult AKA Chamber of the Sci-Fi Mutant Priestess coming to Steam, though without its original cover artwork by Caza (!).
      I still have my original ‘big box’ version of the game, and I occasionally play it on my Atari ST. Love the game’s mood, love its sound design. Its color palette is prettier on the Atari though.
      It’s a game I’d definitely recommend to all the people that have recently showed enthusiasm about a follow-up to Mason Lindroth’s Hylics, and to everyone craving the psychedelic sci-fi from the 70s and 80s, à-la Heavy Metal or Epic Illustrated magazines.

      Exxos/Cryo games are lacking on Steam. A few ones are available, Salammbô: Battle for Carthage (their work with Philippe Druillet on a videogame adaptation of his comic book based on Gustave Flaubert’s novel), the Megaraces, Lost Eden
      But I’d love to see the original Captain Blood, Purple Saturn Day, Extase, Teenage Queen, or Commander Blood and Big Bug Bang being (re)discovered by a larger crowd.
      I’m sure Commander Blood and Big Bug Bang would be welcomed by the people who enjoyed the FMV-cosmo-muppets in Star Control 3 or the claymotion in Vangers, and by those who, like me, loved Daedalic Studio West’s The Long Journey Home.

  7. King in Winter says:

    Haha, I remember Kult. What a weird game that was. Looked better on the Amiga, though.

  8. Danda says:

    French games had amazing design, even when they weren’t well executed. Sometimes you enjoyed them, sometimes you didn’t, but they were always unforgettable. They are begging for a “remaster”, not just a re-release.

  9. fenriz says:

    What beautiful games. The genre is so typically 90’s, an adventure rpg hybrid, something today’s gamers hate, provided they can even comprehend it.

    If you tell them there’s gonna be verbs in their FPS, they’ll first be bored and cry that they can’t or don’t want to read and you can’t make them, or they’ll think it’s a monstrosity that will make everyone angry, and that it’s not even possible to do or conceive, as today we can only visualize games that strictly belong to one genre of gameplay only.

    Yet we praise these gems, if they’re the original ones, and believe their gameplay is something obscure and mysterious.

    eeerr yeh i don’t like current times.

  10. fish99 says:

    Someone should revive Hired Guns.

  11. Voldenuit says:

    Another shout out to Chamber of the Sci-Mutant Priestess. I had no idea that Caza did the cover art, although that seems obvious when pointed out now.
    I also loved the games by Silmarils, another French developer with impeccable art design in their games. How did we lose these guys and end up with Ubisoft instead?

    • and its man says:

      heh yep, and here’s the cover by Caza.

      When I read ‘Silmarils’, my first thoughts went to Xyphoes Fantasy. Weirdly not to the Ishar series, or Targhan and Starblade.
      Must be its music. Xyphoes’ frantic soundtrack was quite Wings of Death-level.

      Also, Ubi released nice stuff back then. I have fond memories of Asphalt and B.A.T.