Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ken sent me

80s. Aaah, 80s. Beautiful, colorful, tasteless, exaggerated in every sense. Time of Robocop, MC Hammer and Thundercats. When people thought leather miniskirts and padded shoulders are the path toward being sexy and cool.

That`s exactly when we`ve met Larry Laffer, or the legendary Leisure Suit Larry. Being the lovechild of the talented Mr. Al Lowe and Sierra Interactive, Larry`s first and most acknowledged adventure - Land of Lounge Lizards - came out in 1987.

Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of Lounge Lizards is the first game of a 6-game series, which went worse in every game, and never could get the same popularity of the first game. Even the remake in 1991 (and re-release in 1997) of the original version was not as popular as the original, where you typed in (not clicked) your commands for Larry.

Perfect, original, creative: You had to go into the bathroom, sit, and try to figure out the nasty carvings and posts on the walls to get the password "Ken sent me", run and tell the bouncer at the back of Lefty`s bar for a night in the arms of a wonderful pixelated prostitute. ..or something like that.

The most important part was the text-adventure style commands, where you can tell Larry to do even most ridiculus, unacceptable things, and Larry would give you a hilarious response, even if it`s not the right action to do.

The way you type your commands are like : "Open door", "Dance with the woman in red shirt" etc. So you can be as creative as you want.

I remember falling in love with the 16-color lady at the back of the bar like it was yesterday. I was trying all the curse words I`ve heard in English to find a funny comment, or maybe an easter egg (usually some sex related graphic or comment), cleverly hidden in the game by the programmers. The keyboard of my 386(sx 25) probably knows the darker side of my adolescence better than anyone else.  

80`s had a weird approach to sex, money, humour and fashion. And funny enough, Larry is one of the best 80`s experiences you can get now.

I say put on your white sneakers, tight light blue jeans and go back where everything was 16-color CGA. If anybody asks, say Ken sent you.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I haaaveeee theee pooooweeeeerrr !

Let me tell you this: This game is the jewel of Amstrad. Coming out right at the golden age of gaming, it is one of the first games made from a movie. A bad movie, to be fair. It is He-Man: Masters of the Universe, in 80s technology, and 80BC`s taste of entertainment.

First, I want to give you a quick walk-through of the Loading screen. The tab on the left and bottom is your HUD, which will remain there from the loading screen till the end of the game (almost like a gamewatch). The HUD contains a compass, your life and weapon gauges, a "chord" indicator and your score. The image depicts you, as legendary Dolph Lundgren. Could you recognize the guy at the back? He is one of the greatest villains of all times. He is Skeletor!

Here on the left you can see the title screen, which evidences the effort and time put into this masterpiece. It really is a masterpiece. You`ll understand why.

Your in-game info and mission is given by the beautiful and talented Teela in a pop-up window. It may look more like a passport picture of a eastern European transvestite, but she has vital information for your game...well actually no, she has not. Because whatever you do, everything is the SAME in this game. Nothing ever changes. Even the gameplay screen remains the same.

Basically, what you do is wandering around bunch of corridors, which literally feels like Eternia. When you enter a new screen, you`ll notice that it`s the clone of the previous screen with new enemies scattered around the black parts of the screen. The bad guys are from Skeletor`s army, they are the little mighty pixel people flying around.

These sneaky and very dangerous people throw small dots at you, but do not fear - you can do the same. You`ve got to make sure that no small dot hits you. I believe these are laser beams, which confused me a lot for many years. Thinking about the whole concept of He-Man, I don`t remember He-Man`s sword (THE power sword) was able to blast laser. But hey, who am I to judge the successful designers at Gremlin Interactive.

In this picture above, you can see He-Man going after a chord, while the bad guy relentlessly fires his fearsome dot at him. 

The informative gameplay immediately lets you know that you, He-Man, found a chord. You know, that happens in Eternia.

In case too many small dots hit you and the number over the small head in your HUD drops to zero (your lives), you lose the game. Game over. Skeletor and his army of pixel people have won and became the masters of the universe. Shame on you!

pics: mobygames.com

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Buenos Dias. My name is Manny Calavera and you`re my next customer..

You know it, I know it...It is one of the best games ever made. Such elegance, such sophistication, art and all that jazz..literally. 

Grim Fandango came out in 1998 from Lucasarts, and gave the gaming world something that was never done before, and probably never will be done again: an artistic depth. I`m not talking about some good drawings and nice music, I`m talking about art deco architecture, free form jazz, illustrations full of culture, and a plot that says "somebody sat down and actually thought about this" all over it.

Grim Fandango is a graphic adventure set in a world stuck between our world (whatever that means) and the afterlife, called the Land of the Dead. The story follows the travel agent Manuel (Manny) Calavera, who attempts to save Meche Colomar, a newly arrived but virtuous soul during her journey to the nine underground (afterlife). 

Manny`s world combines elements of the Aztec belief of afterlife with some film noir tones and Casablanca-like old movie setting. But at the end, it`s an adventure game where you click your way into the game`s beautifully designed plot. So it kinda feels like eating a five-michelin star dinner alone at home in front Seinfeld. 

There are some problems with making a classy game. First of all, as a player, you can`t tell anybody. What are you gonna do, run and tell people that the game is frickin full of character? As a person playing computer games, your reputation of understanding and commenting on art and class is probably not too high. So your whole enthusiasm explodes inside, nodding to the screen with a stupid smile on your face. Secondly, classy games don`t sell much, because it`s not democracy, but mediocracy ruling on this earth. Sadly, the game became a victim of too high of a quality and could not sell too well. 

All in all, not many games talk about death. They show death, they create and celebrate death, but never ever really talk about death. This one does - with cool jazz, latin overtones and some unexpected referrals to other uncommon topics like freedom, poetry and inward journeys.

I`m not going to suggest that you should take that journey, play this game or make an effort to understand it. I`m just saying whatever you do, if you have to talk about games someday, don`t you dare to ignore Grim Fandango.

..or this whole crowd below will get you to the nine underground by force.

pics by lucasarts and pocketgamer.co.uk

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A long time ago, in a house far far away...

Games are not just about computers and consoles..at least they were not when I was a child. Not that I`m talking about 1920s, but even 80`s were a little less digital and little more analog.

When we were kids, my imagination was a bit above the capabilities of my Amstrad. There was so much creativity that they could fit into 128kb. So, my friend A!riza and I had to invent games to entertain ourselves.

As I mentioned in one of the older posts, one of the first games that we invented was called something like "Alien Attack". We were two space soldiers (it`s totally your fault if you don`t know what a space soldier does) and we were travelling in our small space ship (my room).

My room was literally as small as a matchbox back then - a perfect spaceship. The window was the display, my small electric piano was the main controls for the ship, the Amstrad was the main computer. As if there was any other computer.

We had laser guns and after landing on an alien world, we used to storm out of the space pod and fight against the aliens in the living room, a.k.a alien world. These aliens were so sneaky, they were imitating shapes of lamps, chairs etc. Awesome stuff.

I won`t recommend you this game though, I figured out there is no way of trying it without looking abnormal after a certain point in your life. Or you know what, go ahead and try it.