In this article (or series of articles, as the case may be) I will be taking a look at some of the historical – even LEGENDARY – computer games which have become lost to obscurity; abandoned by the (probably defunct) companies who made them. They are all easily found on “abandonware” websites, though some may have been snagged by the PC CD-ROM vacuum that is GOG. I let the games tell their story to me through screenshots found for free on the interwebs, saving myself a lot of time and money as I barely researched this post in the grand tradition of the LEGENDARY Bup’s Steam Greenlight series. Let us begin.
Sierra holds a special place in the heart of many PC gamers, releasing classic adventures such as the King’s Quest and Quest for Glory games. Sierra is no more than a name now, having changed hands numerous times in its final years, eventually ceasing operations in 2008 (though still loosely owned by some other entity that I did not research or care to learn). One Sierra’s adventure games from 1991 may not be as well known as the aforementioned, but just from looking through screenshots of Heart of China I knew that I had to play this game, and that it was LEGENDARY. The action revolves around a hero named Jake “Lucky” Master, a dashing pilot with a penchant for slightly offensive Asian excursions, as we will learn.
Master just can not stay out of trouble, it seems, as he frolicks in a not-quite-Raiders-of-the-Lost-Ark kind of world with some ninja named Zhao Chi and a woman named Kate, who also happens to be living in China because she really, really loves their food (or she is a nurse). There is some sort of plot concerning the destruction of Master’s house boat, which did not sit well with the man who calls himself “Lucky”. The game is comprised primarily of pre-rendered backdrops as one shuffles through the first-person action, interspersed with what appear to be stills from an amateur movie. As you may have gathered, this classically text-heavy game leaves nothing to be desired. The dialogue is crisp, the gameplay fast and responsive from what I can tell just from looking at screenshots, and in general I give it an official Lusipurr.com rating of W (for Winner).
Next we have Spirit of Excalibur, a 1990 Virgin Interactive release about everyone’s favorite king – though Arthur may not actually appear in the game as he is apparently deceased – or at least everyone’s favorite kingdom. (For those who are unaware, King Arthur was presented with a sword called Excalibur when he won the “Camelot’s Got Talent” contest as a young boy for his rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. This version of events has since been questioned by the curious group who refer to themselves as “Arthurian Scholars”, and seek deeper and more plausible explanations of the Arthur legend.) In this classic role-playing adventure you play as a knight named Constantine, who is on a quest for Camelot to reassemble the kingdom, or The Round Table, or something. That part is unclear to me at this time as a distant observer of screenshots. Once there (in Camelot, that is) you are able to receive quests and assemble a party from The Round Table, and go on adventures; leveling up your knights along the way in the very best RPG (role-playing game) fashion. The game (Spirit of Excalibur, if you have forgotten) has a charming art style (read: graphically simplistic) indicative of the era in which it was published (1990, if you have forgotten), and the music is said to be quite pleasant as well by the author of the article on the abandonware website I visited to view said screenshots. I do appreciate that it does not adopt the first-person view so popular with dungeon crawlers of the era – a style which becomes quite tedious after a while. It may be worth checking out, and I just might if provoked. Obviously this game deserves a A (for Arthurian).
Finally this week I direct your attention to Cruise for a Corpse, a lovely little adventure game published by Interplay in 1991. You play as a French detective named Raoul Dusentier, which makes this very different from Agatha Christie’s Belgian detective Hercule Poirot because the name and country are different. The signature moustache and virtually all of the other story elements might be identical to a Poirot mystery, but rest assured this is not a Poirot mystery since that would require royalty payments. No, instead of the usual Christie plot involving a murder with myriad suspects (making the case seem daunting in the beginning) and discovering the (probably a surprise to the reader) culprit by about page 328, in Cruise for a Corpse the player navigates in typical point-and-click fashion to find clues and eventually uncover the murderer among many possible suspects (making this seem daunting at the outset) until eventually unmasking the guilty party at about minute 328. This is all very different and original and very, very special. The game was originally titled Croisiere pour un Cadavre, which translates into English as “we ripped off Poirot and made a game about investigating a corpse who was murdered by one of the passengers on this ship”. 11 (out of 5).
There you have it: three games truly deserving of your time and attention. Rest assured, they are all available in the abandoned software realm, which is perfect because I suspect that $0 is a fair price for most. Now for the interactive part of the post: Do you, dear reader, want to see any of these games streamed on a future episode of Sebahamut’s Lagoon? (Check your local listings.) Do you want to see more of these brief synopses of games I have never installed or played? Do you like words like LEGENDARY to appear in uppercase? Should Lusipurr fire me over this post? Let me know in the comments below!