Adventure Game Field Guide Pt 2

Friday, June 19, 2009
We're told that adventure games are dead. We're told the genre died with a whimper, living it's final days in a padded room screaming about three headed monkeys. While that may have been true once upon a time, the stars have once again aligned and the Threepwood walks amongst us. Now I hear the familiar soldiers waking from their grave. The sound of leather souls, rabbit feet, clattering bones and motorcycles is near on the horizon. Their time has come again.

There are many a forgotten adventure game out there that deserve their moment in the sun. Since Lucasarts seem to have finally realized their blunder (their cancellation of all adventure game projects is what killed the genre in the first place) I wouldn't be surprised to see some of these titles get their own revitalization.

First and foremost, it's time Lucas arts re-examined Loom. Loom was one of the most innovative and difficult adventure games ever made. The entire game centered around music, from story to inventory. That's right, I said inventory. aking place in the distant future, the world is run by a series of trade guilds. Chief among these guilds are the Weavers. Now the guardians of the Loom, a magical web that holds the universe in balance, the Weavers are powerful magicians and seers.

When a young woman who asked the Weavers to manipulate the Loom to save her unborn child
is turned down, she sneaks into the guild and weaves a new thread into the loow. This thread is Bobbin Threadbare, your character.

It falls to you, as foretold in prophecy, to gather spells from the various guilds, stop the evil Chaos and repair the Loom.

In Loom, your only item is your Dystaff, a magical item you use to cast the spells you learn from the guilds. These spells take the form of musical notes that you must remember in order to use said spell. It's one hell of a task to remember these as some spells are quite complex. All must be learned by trial and error and if you don't write them down you'll probably add about 4 hours of gameplay to the experience.

I've only played a little of the game through Scumm VM, my wife is the great expert on Loom here (she's also the one responsible for our bitchin' header graphics. Give her a hand folks.). What I've played has been very interesting. The spell system is so unlike any other game, it's strange seeing it in an older game. In this industry, different often equals new.

Bobbin Threadbare is an endearing character and the world of Loom is deep. The villain, Chaos, is iconic to say the least and I'd say that the final confrontation is spectacular except that there isn't one. That's right, you never fight Chaos. Ever.

You see, Loom was conceived as a trilogy but he creator of the games only ever finished the first before he essentially (these are parctically his own words) got bored and moved on. So this game has been sitting, spectacular and incomplete for some nineteen odd years. It's fucking time to finish this story Lucasarts. I swear to god, if you make a prequel, I will strangle your pets in front of your children.

Loom is certainly a more adult game than most other adventure games. It's not alone by any means, yet the more memorable titles do seem to be those that lean towards hilarity. Myst is one of the few adventure titles/ franchises that was both adult and popular with the greater gaming crowd.

My name is Bobbin Threadbare. Are you my mother?

Another more adult and well forgotten series was Dark Seed. Dark Seed was interesting for a few reasons. First, it was a serious toned horror based adventure game. Second, the art design was headed by H.R. Giger, the perpetually insane Swiss artist. You might know his work from Alien and/or your most terrifying nightmares.

Dark Seed puts you in the shoes of Mike Dawson, a writer who moves into a new home. On his first night there he has a horrible nightmare that puts him in a place called the Dark World where beings called Ancients implant a device called a dark seed in his brain.

Good thing Giger isn't an architect.

Upon waking, Mike has a limited time to unravel the truth about the Dark World and it's connection to the town. Should he fail, the Dark Seed will explode from his skull, forming a dimensional rift and allowing the ancients to invade Earth.

The game was one of the first to actually put time constraints on the player, forcing you to act quickly. Should you fail to solve a problem quickly enough, you may find yourself in an unwinnable solution. It happened a lot, forcing you to restart the game/ save to continue on.

Dark Seed II was released in 1995 and you again had to stop the Ancients. This time round, Mike has been diagnosed as mentally unstable and is accused of killing his high school girlfriend. Somehow, everything is part of the ancients plot to take over the world. The game had a couple endings, although the good ending still had you killed off.

My name is Mike Dawson. Are you my murderer?

The series isn't necessarily dead though and could easily be brought back. Can you imagine what could be done with today's graphics and Gigers designs? Dont, it'll give you nightmares.

Keep an eye out next week when we'll explore Bad Mojo and a game that may be the most obscure and horrifying part of the adventure genre. Until then, be well my Somnambulant Flock.