16 color adventure

If you aren’t geeky, this post might not be for you.

I love adventure games. New, old, doesn’t matter. LOVE them.

I might have to go back to the beginning here so you’ll understand why.

It’s my dad’s fault. He worked at IBM for approximately twelve billion years (or thirty sans the billion), and when he started he was doing maintenance on timeclocks.

Dad’s work with IBM also meant that as we grew up, we had almost every incarnation of personal computer known to man):

PC Junior. No hard drive! Woo!

Orange screen? Check. 10 tons? Check.

Somewhere in my parents' house is an identical mouse with my little bro's teethmarks still on it.

My first adventure game was King’s Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella. Dad brought it home one day, and he and I (and sometimes Steve, almost too small to look over the desk) would try to solve the hair-pullingly-non-intuitive puzzles to advance the story. Seriously, I loved the game, but sometimes secretly felt like the designer was a sadist.

My gateway drug.

The story was simple: You’re a princess journeying in a far away land, and you must find magic fruit to heal your father, who is near to death. You also have to help Genesta, a fairy, and retrieve her magic amulet so she’ll have enough power to send you home to your father once you have the fruit.

And there was a time limit, so if you wasted too much time, you could get to a point where the game was no longer solvable. And you could sometimes die horribly with no warning, and if you hadn’t saved for awhile, that meant that you had to play huge parts of the game over again.

Death by tree? Yeah. It could happen.

Add to that the fact that it had a type interface, so you had to figure out what commands the game liked and didn’t understand. Sometimes you knew what you wanted the character to do, but couldn’t figure out how to make the game understand what it was.

It was awful. It was frustrating. The graphics were terrible. It was impossible to solve without going online to find hints on Prodigy (it was most definitely 1988).

And yet, adventure games are still my favorite. Because when my dad brought that game home, he unknowingly set me on a path to addiction that is still a part of my life to this day.

I love me a good story. Playing an adventure game is like becoming part of a story. Sometimes part of that story is dying senselessly over and over again (like, by lockpick up the nose or beer made from dragon’s breath), but hey, it’s just one of the hazards of 16 color adventuring. Like I said, love me a good story.

So much so, that even after the horrid graphics of KQIV, I still wanted to play King’s Quest II: Romancing the Throne. It looked like this:


If that looks familiar to you and you’ve never played the game, it’s because you’ve been playing Minecraft, and there’s a nice shout out to pixelly King Graham hidden in the game. Go Mojang.

This game introduced me to the pain and rage involved in saving-your-game-and-then-realizing-you-need-an-object-to-advance-in-the-game-and-can-no-longer-get-it-so-you-have-to-start-completely-over.

More astounding graphics.

I’ll illustrate. In King’s Quest II, you have to cross over a poisoned lake to get to Dracula’s castle. Once there, there’s no way to go back except to restore to an earlier saved game and play from there.

So I saved the game once I got over to Dracula’s castle, because one of the basic rules of classic adventure gaming is “save early, save often. Because you never know when you might die horribly/ridiculously/comically/immediately.

Only then did I realize that I couldn’t enter Dracula’s castle because of the poison brambles outside the door.

I had forgotten the magic sugarcube (which as we all know, can protect against poison brambles once we eat it)…on the other side of the poison lake.

And since I had just saved my game, there was no way to go back and get it. I would have start over from the very beginning.

I then did what any eight year old would do in that situation: growl with rage and rake my fingers violently over the keyboard. It’s a testament to the durability of old computers that the keyboard suffered no ill effects. The thing was built like a tank.

Frustrations and bad graphics were a part of the experience, yes, but…

…I’d be remiss if I wrote about old adventure games without addressing the fabulous music. Internal speaker, you changed my life.

By changed my life, I mean nearly split my eardrums (turn down your volume if you click on this):

It did get better; some midi stuff is surprisingly pretty. And Tom Lewandowski over at Quest Studios has made a lot of the old Sierra tunes available online for free – some he’s even recorded with actual instruments so you can hear what the composers originally intended. Pretty nifty.

Anyway, that was the beginning. Since then I’ve played Space Quest (starring Roger Wilco, space janitor extraordinaire), Quest for Glory (starring a nameless adventurer who learned to be a hero through correspondence school), Laura Bow (murder mysteries), and others, both from Sierra and LucasArts.

I’m currently working on The Longest Journey, which is a lot newer – but every bit as hard as those old games. Although I haven’t died once yet. Which kind of disappoints me in a sick sort of way. Is that bad?

Anyhow, if you’re an old game fan, check out AGD Interactive – they’ve revamped some of the old Sierra adventures and fleshed out the stories, then made them available for free download. It’s fun and brings back all those nostalgic fuzzy wuzzys.

Happy adventuring, and let me know what your faves were – did I miss anything fantastic?


1 Comment

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One response to “16 color adventure

  1. I didn’t do much of the gaming ever, which I like to blame on how my siblings didn’t let me play Reader Rabbit when I was four. Not that I could read at the time. But! This post reminds me of homestarrunner.com’s Peasant Quest. It is amazing and I suspect you would appreciate it. http://www.homestarrunner.com/disk4of12.html

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