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Old 08-09-2005, 05:32 PM
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Default A roundup of some adventure games

Iíve always loved adventure games.

I drooled when I saw the Magnetic Scrolls games on the Amiga when I went for the PC back in 1989 and couldnít (then) afford an additional Amiga (those were really expensive back then!). Iíve read the reviews of Magnetic Scrolls games a lot and hoped the PC would receive text adventures like those.

Then came the Autumn of 1990 and the game Spellcasting 101 from Legend Entertainment. Man, what a game! A hi-res EGA (but it was pretty imporessive in hi-res CGA too!) game with beautiful, (in EGA) animated, hand-drawn graphics. That was the second game (next to Indy 500) that was clearly better than their Amiga counterparts (Legend hasnít ported their games for the Amiga or other platforms, unfortunately.)

Legend has produced a lot of great, text-based adventure games after this, alongside with Lucasarts, who also started to mass-port their titles to the PC (or, to release their titles first for the PC and only after that to the Amiga) and Sierra.

(You may also want to read this article on these games and running them on the PPC. The article was also published on the 22nd page of the July 2005 Pocket PC Magazine).

The Lucasarts games were immensely popular. They had much bigger popularity than games from Legend mostly because of their interface (which, from now on, will be referred to as the Lucasarts/Sierra interface) and their easier plot.

Unfortunately, the golden age of the Legend/Lucasarts/Sierra-type of adventures only lasted after, say, 1994-1995. After that, other types of games became the absolute stars. Real-Time Strategy (RTS) games (which isnít particularly bad, after all Ė I loved, for example, Starcarft. Was even the 2nd in the national Starcraft championship ) and mostly First-Person Shooter (FPS) games. Also, beginning with the first, because of the sheer size of the multimedia contents, really CD-based game, 7th Guest, a new genre surfaced which, then, was also called Adventure: the puzzle games.

Also, adventures have changed a lot, especially starting with Return to Zork from Infocom/Activision (I donít need to introduce Infocom to any serious adventurer, I think ), in late 1993. A lot of them started having a First Person-view and full-screen graphics; even the adventures written by Legend started to have full-screen graphics from the year 1994.

In this roundup, I list and evaluate some of the new titles. Note that I also review puzzle games (which are, once again, can also be considered adventures) because of the lack of adventure games on the PPC. Please note that I havenít reviewed the new
Egyptian Prophecy - The Fate of Ramses and some older titles like Deja Vu I & II . I havenít reviewed ScummVM either, the best, multi-platform tool to run old Lucasarts games (you definitely want to give it a try!), because itís not a game per se.

Fade 1.09: the ďAlpha and OmegaĒ of Pocket PC adventures. Much as itís almost 4 years old, itís still the best ďtraditionalĒ text-based adventure IMHO. Itís QVGA only, but, at least, it runs on current VGA devices too. Itís really worth giving a try.

Note that Fade has about 900 files in its subdirectories. This means you should never install it in the main memory, even if you have enough RAM, because of the WinCE slowdown.

(A remark for people that (tried) to play earlier versions: this no longer crashes in the bedroom when you zoom in your wifeís clothes (a bug introduced by 1.03 and not eliminated until 1.06 AFAIK) when you pick up the train tickets.)

Interactive books from Inebooks: these interactive books, which have some resemblance with adventure games, are most likely well-known for RPG fans. Books like the games? interactive books? published/developed by this developer have been published by decades by other companies.

Therefore, their latest (and now-featured) title, Dry Gulch (it was the one Iíve reviewed of their titles) is mostly meant for people that prefer ďrealĒ interactive books. For real adventure fans, they may be a big disappointment. Therefore, try before purchase because they are a far cry from ďrealĒ adventures. Not even the images are clickable.

Atlantis Redux : a promising game with a First Person view. Its strength is that everything is spoken (and also subtitled for non-English speakers). If you like adventure games beloging to the FP genre, youíll definitely like this.

Gilbert Goodmate
A definite killer along with Fade (or, for FP fans, Atlantis). A Lucasarts game clone. A must if you like traditional Lucasarts games!

Myst . Fans of the ďpuzzleĒ gender will definitely love this port. Die-hard (text/Lucasarts) adventure fans will not necessarily like this title, however.

Technically, it could be better Ė the Flash-based engine also results in a lot of restrictions. I wouldnít want to comment on the game itself because I prefer text-based adventures and donít particularly like puzzle games.

Some remarks for the summarization table

Memory occupation?: fortunately, all these games can be installed onto storage cards.

Traditional adventures often had mazes to increment the number of played hours and to make the player draw a map. For example, Legend Entertainmentís Spellcasting 101 and 201 both had one; so did Gateway. Sierraís Kingís Quest 5 is the same in this respect.

Much as the games mentioned (especially those developed by Legend Entertainment) have always been the best adventures, I personally dislike mazes. Fortunately, Fade doesnít have mazes.

7th Guest-type of puzzles?

There is some difference between ďrealĒ adventures (of which, thereíre two types: mostly text-based ones like Fade and Lucasarts/Sierra-like ones like Gilbert) and puzzle games that started with 7th Guest. Myst is more of the second category.

Native VGA?

Do the games offer native VGA capabilities? Unfortunately, only Myst have native VGA capabilities and only while reading books (normally, itís QVGA only).

Text-based titles like Fade should be converted to VGA; these games would benefit a lot from this. Migration canít be that complicated either because all the images in that game are ray traced and, therefore, can always be re-generated, now with a larger output resolution.

Hacking resistence - Not hackable gfx/sound file format: in these sections, Iíve examined the file format used by the game. If, for example, itís very easy to get/extract sound/image files from the game (just like the case with Fade), then, the gamers can freely extract anything they like.

Hacking resistence - Not readable text format: itís the best if the dialog text canít be simply read with a file viewer in order to avoid cheating. (Once, when I got stuck with Spellcasting 101, I also started reading the not-really-encoded text in order to find out what to do ).

Speech with undertitles?: if there is spoken stuff in the game, is it (or, can it be) undertitled so that non-native speakers will also understand whatís going on? (Remember Return to Zork? It was very hard to understand for a non-native English speaker because of the very hih speech compression rate.) Fortunately, Atlantis excels at this; Myst, on the other hand, doesnít.

You can find the summarizing table here.
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Old 08-09-2005, 05:58 PM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 70

Excellent! As a new PPC owner (Axim x30h) I can't wait to try some good games. Ahh, the good old days of Sierra/Dynamix adventure games. I remember playing almost all of the original King's Quest games, as well as the Monkey Island series.

Anyone remember games from Access software like Countdown? I think it was one of the first games to have something called "Real Speech", which allowed for some reasonably good sound effects and speech over the 1 channel built-in PC speaker.

A trip down nostaligia lane...
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Old 08-10-2005, 01:05 PM
5000+ Posts? I Should OWN This Site!
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 5,067

You may also want to know that the .unload file of Fade is 113 kbytes. Therefore, also as described for example here, you may want to remove/relocate it in order to free up some RAM.

This is true even if you install the game onto a storage card (which is, as has already been pointed, highly recommended because of the sheer number of files it has and the consequent system slowdown when installed to the main memory).
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