Tag Archives: icons

Thimbleweed Park, PC

Thimbleweed Park is a point-and-click adventure, released in 2017 by Terrible Toybox, and co-created by ex-LucasArts employees Gary Winnick and Ron Gilbert.

In case you didn’t know: both Gilbert and Winnick have been involved in the making of some of the best games of all time, including (but not limited to) titles such as: Ballblazer, Maniac Mansion, The Secret of Monkey Island, and Day of the Tentacle.

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Day of the Tentacle, PC

This is the original 1993, VGA, MS-DOS version of Day of the Tentacle, with graphics presented at a fairly low-resolution 320 x 200. They still look great to me though.

Compare this to the high def Double Fine remake of 2018 and there is no contest – the high def version wins every time – although there is still a perverse nostalgic thrill to be had from playing the original VGA version.

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Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, PC

Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis was initially published by LucasArts in 1992 and was immediately recognised as something rather special – at least better than what most of the competition were doing at the time.

What makes Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis so good is the melding of the Raiders of the Lost Ark movie mythos, and the great writing, art and animation talent of LucasArts.

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Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure, PC

This excellent LucasArts point-and-click adventure game was first released in 1989 (to coincide with the film of the same name) and preceded the classic Fate of Atlantis by three years.

I have to admit that this one passed me by until now, and I’m still recovering from the shock of discovering a new SCUMM adventure from the same core team who gave us Fate of Atlantis, Day of the Tentacle, Monkey Island, and Sam & Max

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Simon the Sorcerer, Amiga

Simon the Sorcerer is a very fondly-remembered, British point-and-click adventure game published by Adventure Soft for the Amiga in 1993.

It looks and plays similarly to the classic LucasArts adventures of the late 80s and early 90s – Loom, Monkey Island, and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis – and has the same verb/icon system as pioneered by those games.

It also has a similar, dry, satirical sense of humour to the aforementioned LucasArts games, which is somewhat surprising because Simon the Sorcerer was written by a teenager – specifically Mike Woodroffe‘s son, Simon. Mike was the director of Simon the Sorcerer and Simon, his son, was the writer. His “big break” you could say, and he didn’t let his dad down…

Simon the Sorcerer has a lot of great scenes in it – all beautifully drawn and coloured by pixel artist, Paul Drummond. All the characters are nicely animated too. Overall it is a top quality production. A ‘talkie’ version (with full voice acting) was later released on CD-ROM and I would say that that’s the one to play if you’re going to play this game. Word of warning though: it’s quite a difficult game, so be prepared for some frustration, unless: A. you’re an adventure game genius and have no fear, or B. you’re happy to use a walkthrough

A 25th Anniversary Edition of Simon the Sorcerer was released in April 2018 to mixed reviews. I haven’t played it yet so can’t comment. These screenshots are from the original 1993 Amiga version.

More: Simon the Sorcerer on Wikipedia
Steam: Simon the Sorcerer 25th Anniversary Edition on Steam
GOG.com: Simon the Sorcerer 25th Anniversary Edition on GOG.com

Grandia III, PlayStation 2

Sony‘s PlayStation 2 has had its fair share of decent RPGs, but Grandia III – first released in 2005 by Game Arts and Square Enix – is one that sticks in my mind clearly.

Grandia III is beautifully-produced, with excellent audio/visuals – maybe a bit too much in terms of video cut scenes – but nicely produced nonetheless.

You play a young boy called Yuki (and his companions), and who is drawn into a rescue mission when he sees a young girl being chased by a group of men. As a pilot, Yuki flies from location to location, using a variety of different vehicles, all powered by some kind of magic. This ‘flying’ theme is a major part of Grandia III‘s gameplay.

Combat in Grandia III is similar to the other Grandia games. It’s essentially turn-based, but with real-time elements. There’s a timeline, and all participants are shown on it as moving icons. If you time your attacks correctly you can cancel an opponent’s attack, and this is key to winning most of the tougher battles. It’s what makes Grandia so good.

Whether this third game in the series is better than the second one is a matter of taste. Personally, I prefer Grandia II, although there’s no denying that the more-refined interface and extended visuals of Grandia III are highly appealing.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grandia_III

Shining The Holy Ark, Sega Saturn

A direct follow-up to the classic Megadrive game, Shining in the Darkness, and arguably the best level-grinder on the Sega Saturn, the awkwardly-titled Shining the Holy Ark is a superb first-person, party-based RPG with turn-based combat.

Developed by Sega‘s own Sonic! Software Planning team, Shining the Holy Ark was published in 1997 and is a mix of 3D and 2D graphics. The environments are made of simple 3D polygons, and all the characters are animated using 2D graphics (by the looks of it: possibly rendered on a high-end 3D workstation). Like most “Dungeon Master clones”, you explore tunnels patrolled by belligerent monsters and can step from tile to tile on the map using the joypad. Unlike Dungeon Master: you don’t really get to see the monsters in the distance before they attack you. Just like in Shining in the Darkness: when you step on certain tiles, scripted battles will take place – usually with the combatants sidling-in from the side of the screen, as if to surprise you. The direction the enemies arrive on-screen to fight you is crucial to the gameplay because you can use ‘pixies’ to counter your opponents before the battle starts – that is: if you get the direction right when you counter. Random battles also happen from time to time and the direction thing also applies. Combat is icon-driven, but very easy to understand. You can fight, run, and do all the usual stuff, and you choose your commands from a series of pulsating icons (which are very similar to those seen in a later game: Golden Sun, developed by Camelot Software Planning).

The story in Shining the Holy Ark isn’t anything to write home about. Like most games of this type: dialogue and situations are simple and a bit dumb, but that doesn’t really matter because the game is both extremely playable and very challenging. Like the original Shining in the Darkness, Shining the Lost Ark is tough. You can forget trying to complete any of the dungeons in one visit. The tactic that saves you is in using an Angel Wing, or a Return Spell, to warp back to town to heal-up. Then go back in. Thankfully there’s a very nice automap feature (brought up by pressing Start) when you’re actually in the dungeons, which helps make exploring fun and not confusing.

I hadn’t played Shining the Holy Ark until recently, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I’m a big fan of the original Shining in the Darkness, and this is a perfect continuation in many respects. Graphically, it’s a little dated (it’s those pre-rendered character graphics that date it), but gameplay-wise it has survived the rigours of time extremely well and is very much worth playing now; if you can find a copy. If you like JRPGs this is a must-play game.

More: Shining the Holy Ark on Wikipedia

Flames of Freedom, Atari ST

Flames of Freedom is the 1991 sequel to Midwinter – a sprawling, open-ended action/strategy game created by Maelstrom Games.

Like its predecessor, Flames of Freedom is a mixture of 2D graphical menus and icons, and 3D, window-on-the-landscape, first-person action. The aim of the game (again like the first Midwinter) is to travel around a set of islands, recruiting agents to fight for you, and assasinating enemies. Being a multi-skilled agent you can drive, fly and take control of a large variety of vehicles and must use these to avoid being killed or captured by the opposing forces.

The first Midwinter had a small number of vehicles to use, Flames of Freedom has many more. There are ground vehicles (tanks, jeeps, buses, trains and more), flight vehicles (helicopter, biplane, jet packs!), amphibious vehicles (flying boat, hovercraft, crawler, and flying sub!), and underwater vehicles (including a cool mini sub and a thing called a crawler that can move on land and underwater). In fact, Flames of Freedom may have been the first game to give you the freedom to explore land, sea and air – as well as undersea. The range of vehicles is really quite impressive.

Getting into Flames of Freedom requires some patience though. Not only do you have to set up a campaign save disk before playing properly (you can go on training missions without), but when you do begin a game proper you’ve got to plan and focus to get anywhere. Flames of Freedom will appeal to those who like a strategic challenge though. It is an intricate, clever and high quality game and is rightly regarded as a classic.

Flames of Freedom was directed by the late Mike Singleton – the guy responsible for Lords of Midnight and Doomdark’s Revenge, among others.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flames_of_Freedom

Nightshade, NES

NOT the infamous 1985 Ultimate game, but an obscure action/adventure classic from Aussie developer Beam Software, first released on the NES in 1992.

Nightshade is a light-hearted, humourous point-and-click adventure with beat ’em up elements, based on a vigilante good guy called Mark. Yes, Mark.

Thankfully Mark’s superhero alias is the rather more snappy “Nightshade“. And as Nightshade you must ply your trade as a night time street-crawler, looking to batter bad guys and rescue women from burning buildings, because doing so increases your popularity. At the same time you must also hunt down the infamous villain “Sutekh” whose bad guy forces have overrun Metro City.

In many ways Nightshade is the spiritual predecessor to Shadowrun on the Super Nintendo, also developed by Beam and released the following year in 1993. Both games share a lot of simularities and Nightshade was obviously a big influence on the design of Shadowrun (considered one of the best games of all time on the SNES).

Nightshade is obviously more primitive than Shadowrun, and the fighting sections are a little too fast and skittish for my liking, but overall it is an original and entertaining adventure on the NES, still worth playing now. Find a guide and work your way through it. If the fighting sections are too hard: use quicksaves in an emulator to edge yourself along. 🙂

More: Nightshade on Wikipedia

Alter Ego, Commodore 64

Alter Ego is a text-based Role-Playing Game where you can live out the mundane life of a person in an alternate reality, be they male or female, and play out the many branches of possibilities in their lives.

There are seven phases of life, according to Alter Ego. 1. Infancy, 2. Childhood, 3. Adolescence, 4. Young Adulthood, 5. Adulthood, 6. Middle Adulthood, 7. Old Age, and each section of the game represents one of those stages. You can start at birth, and carry on, or you can jump into an individual stage and just play that.

There are screens with icons, from where you have to choose different life events, but the majority of the game is descriptive text, and – quite frankly – it is fascinating.

The game was created by an American psychologist, Dr. Peter J. Favaro, and playing it is like reading a book, but having the book psychologically profile you, and make comments to you, as you read.

Of course, you don’t have to be truthful with your answers – you can play the game as you wish. Good or bad. Alter Ego is a serious attempt at creating an atmospheric, interactive “life simulator”, and it works. To a degree anyway.

And while it is a pity that there are no major graphics in Alter Ego, don’t let that put you off playing it. Especially if you are interested in psychology or the human condition.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alter_Ego_(1986_video_game)