Discworld was an adventure game that took me a while to get into, but one I’m glad I saw through to the end – even if I had to use guides on demo CDs. The game was received as being incredibly difficult for an adventure game even during the 90s, thanks to puzzle solutions that seemed totally random. But one thing is unmistakable: it was a fitting homage to the books.
Though its own story, it’s heavily based on the novel Guards! Guards!, with the same inciting incident of a secret brotherhood summoning a dragon into the city of Ankh-Morpork, a Pratchettian fantasy mirror of London. Importantly, it’s a game that captures the essence of what Discworld is, which is to say: very funny.
It wasn’t until years later that I realised the voice cast included a host of famous comedians, lead by Eric Idle as Rincewind. Other colourful characters are brought to life by voice actors including Tony Robinson (who reads the audiobook version of most of the Discworld novels), John Pertwee, Kate Robbins and Rob Brydon.
The game also incorporates the gentle meta rib nudging of the books, without putting too many elbows through the fourth wall. Talking to Corporal Nobby Nobs and the other guards about heroes brings up the point that million-to-one chances “crop up nine times out of ten” because they’re the most dramatic option. A puzzle involving introducing corn to an alchemist’s bunsen burner to create popcorn inadvertently provides the catalyst for “The Clickies” (itself also a reference to the novel Moving Pictures, where popcorn is better known as “banged grains”). You do this, incidentally, to steal an imp from inside a camera.
Admittedly, it’s things like that that made Discworld one of the most convoluted adventure games of its day. The leaps in logic are so large that even the stoic Great A’Tuin would probably roll its celestial eyes. It’s a game of which I have the fondest of memories, and if you have a will, you can still play it. There’s been no official digital release, but I hear DOSBox emulators can do incredible things these days…