Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Napalm Sticks to Kids

Like Erik said in his previous post: it's that time of the year where we collectively lean back in our comfortable easy chairs, and try to look back at past events in an attempt to gauge if we were beneficially or detrimentally affected by them. And what better way to do this than in the easy-to-digest form of a Top 5 list?

So without further ado, here is my highly subjective list of "The Top 5 Adventure Games that Affected Me the Most".

Monkey Island 1 & 2
These games are principally the reason why I'm making games today. I've yet to see a better marriage between story and gameplay than these two games, one feeding the other in subtle non-intrusive ways.

And no, I don't care much for the sequels. I think they misunderstood just about every aspect of why the first two games were great. Sure, they are funny and enjoyable games, but in Monkey Island 1 & 2 there is always a lining of darkness undermining the humor, making the experience strangely unsettling in a brilliant way.

It's easy to overlook Sanitarium: it wasn't marketed much and was overshadowed by Tim Schafer's magnum opus Grim Fandango, released the same year. And sure, it's a flawed master piece: the control scheme is very annoying at times, but it still contains some of the most haunting scenes I've ever come across in games. Playing hide and seek with deformed children at the beginning of the game; haunting a young grieving couple as the ghost of their recently departed daughter; the agonized screams of other patients being caught in the burning mental institution. Clearly designed by a very morbid person -- and all the better for it!

Not widely included among the LucasArts' Top 5 but possibly the game that left me feeling the most drained and depressed upon completion. And I mean that in a good way, like the empty feeling you get after completing a huge undertaking. Also contains moments of somber, poignant brilliance, like when you come across the body of a young smith apprentice whom you've "accidentally" killed, seeing his ghost rise to confront you about what you did.

Also -- and this is a side note -- what happened to the "audio drama" tapes that you could listen to while installing the game? It was a great way to set the stage before actually playing. I miss those days...

A scan of Datormagazin's review here (in Swedish). And whoever is behind this great site (with magazine scans from the 80's and 90's), you have my deepest thanks!

Another World (known as Out of This World in the US)
While technically more "action-adventure" than straight-up "adventure", this is one of my favorite games of all-time, and certainly another example of games that leave you emotionally drained upon completion (in a good way).

I include this on the list as I couldn't decide which of the Delphine Software adventure games I consider the best. I consider them each a flawed masterpiece: the beautiful (but pixel huntingly frustrating) Future Wars; the great spy adventure (minus the useless action sequences) Operation Stealth; and the intriguing murder mystery Cruise for a Corpse. Another World is the only one I still feel awed by. Especially considering that it was all basically done by one freakishly talented guy.

Space Quest III
This isn't the best adventure game out there. While highly entertaining in that trademark sadistic Sierra way, it kind of felt like a waste of great potential. The whole narrative was a bit of an inside joke; the arcade moments aren't all that great; and once out in free space, you'd discover that there was only like three planets to go to (each of them pretty shallow experience-wise).

Still, I didn't hesitate putting it on the list. Why you ask? Well, during a vacation with my family in 1990, I unwisely only brought one piece of reading material with me: a copy of the Swedish game magazine Datormagazin, containing Göran Fröjdh's glowing 5 out of 5 review of Space Quest III. For two weeks I obsessively stared at the featured pictures of space bars and lava planets, imagining all the adventures that could be had there.

A few years later, when I finally got to try it out at a friend's place, it unsurprisingly failed to live up to my expectations. But for me, during those two weeks in Germany -- free to imagine whatever I wanted -- it was the best game ever.

I hope you have a terrific time celebrating the new year.


- a

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