Archive for the ‘Game trail’ Category

Lode Runner, Choplifter, Oregon Trail, and other classic diversions from 8-bit gaming.

Let's Play Lode Runner Legacy

June 4th, 2018 9:00 AM
by
Filed under Game trail;
Comments Off on Let's Play Lode Runner Legacy

Just over a year ago, I shared the trailer for Lode Runner Legacy, the first original game in the Lode Runner series in almost a decade. The game was finally released for Windows in July 2017 but didn't receive its console debut until May 2018, when it was ported to the Nintendo Switch.

The Switch edition retails the voxel graphics style of its Windows counterpart, as well as its multiple modes: adventure; puzzle; and world levels, where players can craft and exchange their own creations. Best of all, its "classic" mode features all 150 levels of the Apple II original! At only $11.99, it's hard to beat.

Still, I have a habit of buying games and never finishing them (or sometimes even starting them!), making me hesitant to purchase Lode Runner Legacy, despite its generally favorable Metacritic score of 77%. Fortunately, the Switch edition offers a free demo that includes ten playable adventure levels and five puzzle levels. I gave this trial edition a spin in my latest Let's Play video.

Legacy plays a bit slower than the Apple II version I remember — but then, I remember playing it with an accelerator, so that may not be a fair comparison. Legacy also features much bigger sprites, and thus smaller levels, than the original — though the game hints at later, more sweeping levels that pull the camera back a bit, allowing for a larger play field.

Although I'm not a huge fan of the art style or the loading time between levels, I didn't see anything in Legacy that would keep me from buying it. I just need to clear some other games off my plate first…

In the meantime, you can hear me rave about the original game in episode #35 of the New Game Plus podcast.

Game Informer's top 300 games

May 21st, 2018 8:32 AM
by
Filed under Game trail;
Comments Off on Game Informer's top 300 games

Every one-hundred monthly issues, Game Informer magazine compiles a list of the best games of all time. These lists fluctuate with the magazine's staff and as new games are released and old games are forgotten. Recently, issue #300 revisited this tradition with the staff's top 300 games. You could call the result arbitrary in the sense that they are highly subjective, but it doesn't change the fact that, with roughly 300 new games being released on Steam every month, to be counted among the top 300 games of all time is an honor, regardless of who it's coming from or how the decision came to be.

While some institutions frequently overlook the Apple II's contributions to gaming, Game Informer has not committed that error, with four games — more than a full percent of the list! — being for the Apple II. Every game on the list got at least a one-sentence summary; most games also had a screenshot; some games further received a full paragraph. All four Apple II games warranted screenshots, and two of them received those lengthier write-ups:


Oregon Trail (#104)

Oregon Trail

Fording a river, contracting snakebites, starving — you and your friends probably died in all these ways and more while playing The Oregon Trail. This wasn't just an entertaining simulation; MECC's revolutionary piece of educational software leveraged new technology to engage students' imaginations beyond textbooks. While the Apple II version of The Oregon Trail wasn't technically the first, it's the one most ids played as they crowded into school computer labs.

Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord (#131)

Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord

Sir Tech's text-heavy dungeon crawl provided the backbone for many of the long-running RPG series that followed.

Zork (#186)

Zork

Though this text game is hard to go back to now, Zork is undisputedly the progenitor of any video game that sought to emulate having an adventure.

Lode Runner (#197)

Lode Runner

Lode Runner combined twitch Pac-Man skills with the ability to dig into the level, trap enemies, and collect gold, creating an ever-changing puzzle game with seemingly infinite configurations, including levels of your own design. It also required both quick thinking and the strategic foresight to decipher increasingly complex levels, becoming a must-have for the home computer, and setting itself apart in the arcade-dominated market.

Read the rest of this entry »

Hulk SMASH!

May 14th, 2018 9:20 AM
by
Filed under Game trail;
Comments Off on Hulk SMASH!

Avengers: Infinity War, now playing in theaters, is the 19th movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, tying together nine film franchises: Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-Man, and Black Panther. These characters have decades of comic book history dating back to 1962, with some of them seeing their first live-action interpretations only now.

But many of them have appeared in other media as well — and that includes Apple II games. Kat Bailey at USGamer has compiled the video game history of every major hero in Avengers: Infinity War. The Apple II gets a special shout-out for being the first video game to ever feature The Incredible Hulk:

Hulk is known as the unstoppable force of destruction, but his first video game appearance was in… an adventure game? Yep, Hulk's video game debut was in 1984's Questprobe, a trilogy of command-based adventure games for the Apple II and Commodore 64 [also] featuring Spider-Man, The Human Torch, and The Thing. It had fantastic art for its time, but the graphical splendor resulted in severely limited commands, hurting overall gameplay.

MobyGames offers this plot summary:

1st in the Questprobe Marvel Comics series. Play Bruce Banner and the Incredible Hulk through this interactive fiction game with graphics. You awake as Banner, tied by ropes to your chair in a bunker in the desert; once you free yourself, collect all the gems to escape this hellhole.

These games were designed by Scott Adams, author of many classic Apple II text adventures. However, The Hulk was the first in the Questprobe series, with the sequels using a much-improved game engine; as a result, Hulk may not have been Adams' finest hour.

Although Avengers is tearing up the box office, the Hulk didn't similarly smash his way to success in his Apple II outing: Questprobe, originally planned to be a series of a dozen games, was cancelled after the third title when its developer went bankrupt. Such was the case for many text-adventure publishers of that era, as more processing power became available and gamers migrated to more visual genres of entertainment.

A greater loss than Hulk's defeat at retail is his disappearance from history: my initial search in the Internet Archive revealed many playable copies of Questprobe, but only for the Spectrum ZX and Atari 800 computers; the Apple II version was surprisingly absent.

Surely that floppy disk isn't rarer than an Infinity Stone. If the Avengers can come together to save the day, we can do our part to preserve the Hulk! Fortunately, all it took was a tweet aimed at the right persons:

… and the game is now available.

Hulk was NOT slain by Thanos, for the good of the Universe. Phew!

Dungeons & Microzine

April 23rd, 2018 11:45 AM
by
Filed under Game trail, Musings;
1 comment.

Earlier this month, I attended my ninth annual PAX East, a video game convention held here in Boston, Massachusetts. The event offers panels, game demos, competitions, and merchandise. That's roughly the order in which the parts of PAX appeal to me, as I try to save my money and avoid the merch table. But there's one kind of merch I can never resist: dice.

When my age was in the single digits, I found my older brother's Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set, complete with polyhedral dice. I'd never before encountered dice with more than six pipped sides and was fascinated to discover dice could have any number of sides: four, eight, ten, twelve, and twenty! I eventually saved my pennies and bought a one-hundred-sided die from the TSR Hobby Shop.

Dice

A fraction of my collection.

These days, every trip to PAX East includes a stop by the Chessex booth, where I pore over dice of different shapes, colors, and materials. Even though I no longer play D&D, I usually go home from PAX East with a few additions to my dice collection.

I want my nephews to experience some of the same awe and fantasy I did as a kid. When I saw one of them randomly rolling dice last month, I decided to expand his horizons with more dice acquired at PAX East.

But what was he to do with these dice? Rolling them at random without purpose or structure would be entertain for only so long. So I set out to find some games he could play.
Read the rest of this entry »

King's Quest a Hall of Fame candidate

April 9th, 2018 7:48 AM
by
Filed under Game trail, Happenings, History;
Comments Off on King's Quest a Hall of Fame candidate

Every year, the World Video Game Hall of Fame — a product of the International Center for the History of Electronic Games at the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester, New York — conducts a poll of which video games deserve to be inducted into the annals of history. The criteria are not what games we had the most fun playing or are the most nostalgic for, but which games have "icon-status, longevity, geographic reach, and influence".

Given the substantial impact such games must've had on the industry, you'd think Apple II software would be a shoe-in. Sadly, this has not always been the case. Not a single Apple II game was inducted in 2017, and previous years overlooked such obvious candidates as Oregon Trail.

Video Game Hall of Fame 2018

This year's candidates—recognize any?

This year isn't looking to make a much stronger showing, unfortunately. From the following dozen finalists, three have been selected to be added to the Hall of Fame in 2018:

All 12 games are worthy candidates, but the Apple II can lay claim to only two of them: King's Quest and John Madden Football. Of the two, I'd much rather see King's Quest be inducted. But does Sierra On-Line's flagship title have the longevity, geographic reach, and influence to attain that status?

We'll find out soon enough — voting ended last Wednesday, and the winners will be announced on Thursday, May 3. Stay tuned!

(Hat tip to the AP)

Wizardry: The first CRPG?

March 12th, 2018 7:11 AM
by
Filed under Game trail;
2 comments.

Many of us know that the venerable Ultima series of role-playing games had its spiritual origin when Richard Garriott developed Akalabeth for the Apple II in 1979. But according to SyFy, it was the 1981 game Wizardry that qualifies as "the first computer-based RPG".

Although declaring anything the "first" is debatable, the video is a good overview of the era in which Wizardry released and the factors that made it popular. I would've appreciated if the video dissected the game's reception in other regions: Wizardry achieved significant fame in Japan and saw many sequels exclusive to that country. The game was also translated to French, as I discovered with this manual that Brutal Deluxe brought to KansasFest 2017.

The Wizardry manual… in French!

The write-up that accompanies the SyFy video is less accurate: observing that "[The developers] had to face the technical limitations of the era (such as writing the game in basic and very limited memory space)" overlooks that the final game was developed in Pascal. And saying that "There were eight games in all in the Wizardry series, starting with the notoriously hard Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord and ending with Wizardry 8, released in 2001" is accurate insofar as the main series goes, but it omits the franchise's spin-offs, of which there have been many.

Sadly, there aren't many modern versions of Wizardry available for gamers to choose from these days. In 2011, I blogged about the PlayStation 3 and iOS release of Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls. But the PlayStation 4 supplanted the PS3 in 2013, and the game is no longer available on iOS, either. The only modern incarnation of the franchise that's currently available is Wizrogue – Labyrinth of Wizardry, available for Mac, Windows, and Linux on Steam as of February 24, 2017.

Given the lack of gameplay, it's not the most compelling trailer. But it's nonetheless good to see the series live on, if in name only.