Quest for Glory: Raking horse poop

(This is part of my journey playing through Quest for Glory 1. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

I mentioned this a couple of times back in my Space Quest and King’s Quest playthroughs, but the Sierra games are a dream to use today.  They start up quick, have no qualms about letting you tab out (which some older games really do), and they save/load swiftly.  All of these make Quest for Glory an enjoyable gaming experience.

da1After three sessions (!) in town, I’m finally heading out into the wilderness.  About time, huh?  The road goes north, south, and east, so I pick east and walk down a quiet path until I hit a snowy avalanche and can progress no further.

da2AHH!  TALKING FOX!  BURN IT!  BURN IT!

da3Nah, I set it loose from the trap and the fox tells me the most random piece of quest information ever.  How would a fox know any of this?  And why is that “amusing?”

da4I turn and go up north, this time ending at the healer’s hut with her pet pteradactyl.  What century is this?  She not only makes potions, but has a quest for me: to find her gold ring.  Fair enough, healer.  I’ll be back with it in a jiffy.

da5As I understand it, you increase your skill points in this game the more you use them (so there’s no traditional XP > leveling system).  So climbing this tree with my 0 skill requires me trying again and again and again.  This is the problem with skill-based systems, since you end up stopping your gameplay to do one action a million times in a row to level it up.  I remember the same crap in Morrowind.  Sigh.  Let’s get to this.

At 29 climbing skill, I finally make it all of the way up.  And what do I get for my efforts?

da6Well.  THAT was an easy quest, all things considered.

I head back in the hut and give the ring to the healer.  She’s so overjoyed that she not only gives me six gold and two healing potions, but she french kisses me on the spot.  It’s kind of hilarious how my character freaks out at this: “You leave to avoid being kissed again.”  Because fat people kissing you is torture, am I right?  But if it’s a hot little filly of a centaur, we can’t get a date fast enough.  Thanks, game.

da7Speaking of that centaur girl, her father is nearby doing farm work.  I’m pretty amused by this elaborate strap system that he’s got going on here.

I ask Heinrich the centaur about the brigand attack that nearly killed him a while back.  He said that they broke his leg and were about to kill him when their helmeted leader stopped them and carried Heinrich to the healer’s hut.  That is… odd, to say the least.  Who is this leader?

da8A little to the north is the Baron’s castle.  The big story behind the Baron is this: He used to have two kids and a wife.  But he got into a tiff with the Baba Yaga, who placed a curse on him and then arranged to have his daughter kidnapped by some sort of flying creature.  The Baroness died, the Baron’s son died, and the jester and several guards went out to try to rescue the girl.  But now it’s been many years and the girl — who should be 18 and well within dating range — is still missing, the Baron is holed up in his castle, there are few guards to keep the peace, and the land is going to muck.  What we need… is a hero.

Of course, this hero is a money-grubbing thief, so my primary concern is to increase my finances.  I am offered a job to clean the stables for a whopping five silver, but hey, I’ll take it.  Money is money.

fightWhile wandering in the forest, I get into my first fight with a goblin… orc thing.  Let me tell you, I have NO idea what I’m doing here.  I just keep clicking the sword icon to attack and easily kill the creature.  Seven more silver for me, woohoo!

deathA second fight goes much more poorly.  Not only can you die from your hit points reaching zero, but you do the same when your SP (stamina points? skill points?) deplete.  Since attacks cost SP, I have enough for about one fight in me per rest.  Awesome.

havenAt least I find this little haven nestled in the woods: Erana’s Peace.  It says it’s a safe place, and it has both free food and a free bed for the night.  Sold!

Quest for Glory: Robbing little old ladies

(This is part of my journey playing through Quest for Glory 1. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

After doing a little bit of reading up on this game, I decided that I don’t want the alleged annoyance of playing a magic user, and so I rerolled as a thief and went through all of the same steps that I just did.  The only difference is that this time I was able to get into the thieves guild via the robber in the alley.  Of course, you can only do that at nighttime, and since there’s no way to speed up the game (that I can tell, at least), you’re left to wander around waiting for time to advance.

I tried to do some research as to how long the day/night cycle lasts in Quest for Glory but found surprisingly little on the subject.  According to one FAQ, there are eight time periods in a day:

  • Day is Dawning
  • Mid-morning
  • Midday
  • Mid-afternoon
  • Sunset Approaches
  • Night is still young
  • Middle of the Night
  • Not yet Dawn

But how often they switch, I dunno.  It also seems as though that time only will progress to the next period when you switch locations (leave/enter a building or leave/enter an area).  If anyone knows, tell me!

th1Anyway, the thieves guild is pretty entertaining.  Not only does it look awesome, but the head thief is all grumpy that “beginners” keep getting sent to him in this po-dunk town.  He spends the moments throwing daggers at the board.

th2There’s even a dagger/dartboard mini-game, although I’m not going to spend money playing it.

th3Instead, I use my rapidly diminishing funds to pay for a thieving license.  Yay, now I can go rip people off!  Well, what about that old lady who lived down the street?  She seems like an easy mark.

Yes, it is disturbing how a pastor will quickly resort to underhanded thievery of the elderly in video games.  Try not to think too much on it.

th4Getting into her house is pretty easy — my lockpicking skill is high enough to handle this door, no problem.

th5I’m guessing that this house is the game’s litmus test to see if you’re truly cut out for robbery, as it’s trying to guilt you so hard about robbing a sweet old lady.  Man, all I can think about is how I’m out 25 silvers for that thieves guild fee and how I need to make it back.  So I yoink pearls, silver, and other knick-nacks while avoiding the roaming cat.

th6I know what you’re thinking, and no, the game won’t let me kill the kitty.  I’m not sorry I tried, however.  The street life taught me to be ruthless.

th7If I try to go upstairs, however, the creaking boards wake the lady and she yells at the kitty until it (why not) transforms into a massive jaguar.  Game over, man!  Game over!  At least I died doing what I loved.

My 10 favorite SNES games

Izlain’s rundown of his favorite Sega Genesis games and a recent delve into nostalgia gaming videos have left me thinking, once again, about my beloved SNES console.  I played the heck out of the PlayStation in the 90s, but the SNES got my full love.  While I reminisced about my history with the console a few years ago, I never did list my all-time favorites from that system.  So here are my top 10 picks in no particular order:

mario1. Super Mario World

As I recall, this was the pack-in game that came with our SNES, and since my brothers and I were flat broke after shelling out $50 each to buy the system, this was the game we played exclusively for a month or two.  Fortunately, it was a terrific game with lots of replay value (and a save game feature!).  Plus, it looked gorgeous, especially with the new water effects and the vivid, cartoony art style.

chrono2. Chrono Trigger

Simply put, I had never played such an amazing RPG before in my life.  This game had it all: time travel, cool characters, a fun battle system, combos, and a storyline with multiple endings.  Ugh, just thinking about it makes me want to load it back up on my iphone.  I played so much of this one summer that I almost never came out of my parents’ basement.

castlevania3. Super Castlevania IV

It’s a toss-up between this and Symphony of the Night as the best Castlevania game in my book.  Either way, Castlevania IV was perfect in almost every way.  The whip was responsive and flexible in a fashion that it had never been before, there were loads of different auxiliary weapons, and the setting was awesome to explore.  Lots of the new SNES tech made an appearance, such as the rotating room and the swinging chandolier.

zombies4. Zombies Ate My Neighbors

This game was ridiculously enjoyable, mostly because it embraced a goofy horror b-movie vibe and went full-out with it.  You got to control kids trying to rescue innocents from zombies, mummies, psycho dolls, chainsaw-wielding murderers, aliens, and monsters, while collecting and using a wide variety of inventory items.  The weedwacker was my favorite.  It was always a great title to play with another person, and still is.

starfox5. Starfox

By today’s standards, Starfox probably looks like a low-polygon on-rails shooter… and it is.  But back in the mid-90s, this was a mind-blowing ride.  It was the first time we had seen 3D on a console and it felt like we really were going around in the third dimension.  Plus, Starfox had kickbutt music, branching stages, wingmen, and the birth of “do a barrel roll!”

mariorpg6. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

Oddly enough, I don’t remember a lot of specifics about this game, probably because I played and beat it once and then haven’t returned to it since.  However, it was surprisingly fun and used the Mario universe to great effect in making a cool RPG.  The combat, combos, and animation were the standout features.

contra7. Contra III: The Alien Wars

This was one of the titles that was used to great effect to sell the SNES to people.  It looked — and played — amazing for the era.  The bosses were huge, the special effects all over the place (did that plane just swoop at the camera, fire bomb the ground, and leave me hanging on for dear life?), and the weapons a blast to use.  It excels in two-player, although the top-down stages are crud.

mariokart8. Super Mario Kart

Despite throwing three Mario titles on this list, I’ve never been a huge Mario fan — but these were all excellent games on the SNES.  Everyone I knew had Mario Kart because it was a perfect game to play with friends.  There were tons of unlockables and ways to mess with your opponents.  Oh battle mode, how I’ve missed you!

turtles9. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time

I played a lot of Turtles IV in the arcade and was really pleased to see that the SNES adaptation was spot-on.  It was a great side-scrolling brawler, with each of the four turtles boasting their own attack style.  Plus, wacky time travel stages!

street10. Street Fighter II

Street Fighter II, both in the arcade and on home consoles, was a massive, massive pop culture phenomenon at the time.  I loved both Chun-Li and E. Honda, mostly because they both had a rapid-fire attack sequence (kicks and punches, respectively).  I never knew most of the combos, but I mastered a few of them and really enjoyed smacking my friends around.

Of course, there were plenty of other great games on the SNES, some that I played and others that I didn’t.  But these 10 were the ones that come to mind when I look back at the best gaming moments with the system.

Quest for Glory: Packing for adventure!

(This is part of my journey playing through Quest for Glory 1. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

merchantIt’s getting late and so I trundle on back to the inn, putting my plans to fully explore this town on hold until the morrow.  While the game informs me that I’m getting tired, I see that the recently robbed merchant is now sitting at the table and so I sit down to ask him about the details of the incident.  Thieves, minotaurs, magic… the usual.  Sounds like a delight.

sleepI thank him and then buy a room for the night.  I try not to think about how I have very limited funds — this doesn’t seem like the type of game that will let you grind on mobs to get enough cash to survive.  I hope I don’t go broke with room service!

zaraNear the inn is the magic shop, where a stunning fairy/human hybrid named Zara is willing to sell me a few spells.  They’re pretty expensive and all I have funds for is a simple fetch spell.  You can never go wrong with a fetch spell in an adventure game, right?

almsNow that it’s day again, the thieves are gone from the alleyway and a poor beggar is sitting there asking for alms.  I spare a few coins because I’m a wellspring of generosity, and the begger advises me not to drink “Dragon’s Breath,” whatever that is.  I don’t think I’d quaff something called that in the firstplace, but good advice.

tavernThe only place left in this one-stoplight town is the local tavern.  The game informs me that it’s not my scene, but oh well, I’m not leaving until my curiosity is satisfied.

crusherTrying to talk to the ogre bouncer merely ticks him off.  After trying three different topics, he throws me out of the place.  Ha!

noteThe tavern does reward me with some quest-related information.  The card-playing butcher and baker talk about fishing and a large trout in mirror lake, and a nearby crumpled note certainly hints at something interesting.

breathBecause I couldn’t resist, I did order a mug of Dragon’s Breath.  It tasted great, or so I was told, but it also burned me up from the inside-out.  Ouch!  Time to reload and order a safe mug of ale.  Ah.

guildhallMan I wish our city had a guild hall that you could go into, sign up to become an adventurer, and get all sorts of wild and crazy tasks.  Maybe in Minnesota, but not here.  The guild hall has a board up with several of the game’s quests on it, including finding a lost ring and returning the Baron’s kidnapped daughter.  Tough times going about here, I gather.

The guild leader talks about the various monsters, the curse on the valley, and makes an Andromeda tourist reference for those who are familiar with the Space Quest games.  OK, enough poking around, it’s time to head out on grand adventure ‘n stuff!

rocksQuest for Glory sure does love its puns.  They’re not great puns, mind you, just kind of “HAR HAR HAR GET IT?” stuff.

I fear that rocks won’t be the worst of my enemies as I forge ahead…

Quest for Glory 1: Magical adventure

(This is part of my journey playing through Quest for Glory 1. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

Even though I played King’s Quest and Space Quest (and the first Police Quest) as a kid, I wasn’t even aware of the whole Quest for Glory (aka “So You Want To Be a Hero?”) series.  Ah, the pre-internet ignorance of youth!  So even though I know little about this series other than it melds RPG elements with adventure gaming and that you can transfer characters from game to game, I’m pretty excited to explore retro virgin territory.  Plus, with the recent resurrection of Sierra, it seemed like a good time to explore another one of the classics!

GOG sells all five games in a bundle, which includes both the original and VGA remastered version of Quest for Glory 1.  I think I’ll be playing the VGA version, as the original looks like this:

q1and the remake looks like:

q2Um… yeahhhh.  I’m all into retro, but I’m not a masochist either.  Let’s go with the newer shiny, shall we?

q3So here’s my guy: Syp the Magic User (ugh, “magic user”?  So uncool, dudes.)  I get a few points at the start to spread out, so I decide to beef up his health (vitality) a little bit, give him a tad more magic, and — why not — go for 25 points in pick locks.  Because if RPGs have taught me anything, it’s that you will always regret not being able to pick locks on those treasure chests.  Kind of cool that the game lets me have this option!

q4Here I am strutting right into the town of Spielburg (I’m not quite sure if this game is a parody in the vein of King’s Quest, but I’m thinking it might lean that way).  Oh hai, sheriff!  Do ya need a hero?  Because I… am that hero.  Just look at my swooshing cape!

q5Why yes, he does need a hero!  The affable sheriff gives me the lay of the town and mentions that both brigands and monsters have been problems, and the reclusive town Baron isn’t doing much about it.

Quest for Glory — at least this remake version — is completely mouse-driven, for which I am immensely grateful.  You right-click to change between interactive icons (look, walk, use, etc.).  There’s also a top icon bar with inventory, magic use, and other fun stuff.

q6In the inn next door to the sheriff, it’s strangely empty save for one cat-guy by the fire.  I enjoy clicking around the various descriptions, after which I chat up the Katta and his scantily-clad soulmate.  Apparently they’re from the southern desert and want to go back there, which doesn’t explain why they came up north to found an inn.  They’re friends of the merchant who was robbed, and other than buying a meal or room that I don’t need, there’s little more here that I need.

q7Whew — for a second, I thought Hilde was an elf due to the pointy ears on the dialogue insert picture.  But no, centaur.  Huh, kind of cool.  We don’t get a lot of friendly centaurs in RPGs these days.  I wonder if centaurs go to the bathroom all over the place like horses or if they have very large toilets for privacy.  Why I’m thinking that, I don’t know.

q8I’m equal parts disturbed, amused, and confused over why the game lets you ask her out on a date.  It’s so out of left field, and yet this IS an RPG, so… huh.  Maybe the devs are appealing to the expected teenage boy demographic.  What would a human and a centaur do on a date?  Oh well, it’s a moot point anyway — I buy a few apples and take my leave.

q9The shopkeeper next door has aspirations of becoming an adventurer, but instead he just sits and reads ironic books.  There isn’t much here that I need or can afford, but I do buy some more food rations (will the game kill me if I go hungry?  I don’t know and don’t want to find out) and an empty flask.

nightI step out of the shop and discover that night has fallen.  Huh, this game has passage of time?  That’s pretty neat from a roleplay and immersion perspective, but kind of annoying from a gameplay one since the NPCs all move and pack up shop.  I guess I’ll have to wait until the morning to ask Hilde out again.

glowingI almost head back to the inn for the night when I see a glow come out of a nearby alley.  Hm.  Investigate?  Sure, why not!

trapAdmiral Ackbar: “IT’S A TRAP!”

I’m torn between kicking myself for getting into this situation and cheering the game’s willingness to prey on the adventurer gamer’s habit of looking for any and all items.  My palms grow sweaty; will I survive my first fight?

fishOddly enough, a fight does not ensue.  The thief says that I’ve made a sign showing that I’m one of them, and so he lets me off the hook and points me to a local tavern to pick up work as a member of the shady underbelly of Spielburg.  I am SO confused.  My character class is Magic User, not Thief, so either the game lets everyone off like this for no good reason or my 25 points in pickpocket have come in handy already.

Sanitarium: The circus of fools

(This is part of my journey playing through Sanitarium. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

c1The gargoyle in the fountain at the asylum not only sent Max into a bizarre circus, but it put him in the shoes of his younger, probably dead sister Sarah.  At least I think we’re still Max.  The game isn’t explaining much right now.

The circus of fools is disturbing from the start.  It’s entirelly located on an island, around which partially flayed corpses float about.  The ringmaster seems surprised that someone showed up and encourages me to check out the attractions and have a good time.  Bobbing for corpses, always a good time in my book.

c2Even though I’m the only attendee here, I still have to pay tickets for the attractions (um… that makes sense).  And the only way to get tickets is to play a bunch of Squid Smash, the exciting game that isn’t a game at all.  It’s a series of dialogue repetitions as I have her smash the squid and see if she gets more tickets or not.  After about 25 tickets, I call it a day and move on.

c3In the big top I meet several of the circus troupe, including Inferno — a lady who triggers a Max Flashback(tm) of him getting married to his bride.  It’s a weird flashback in that the bride is first topless and then has her face turn into a skull, but hey, random manniquin-like nudity.

These characters spell out the dire situation of the circus.  The troupe got trapped on the island after a great flood (that hasn’t since receded) and can’t leave because there’s (why not) a giant squid in the waters killing people.  The squid is growing larger and larger, and it’s only a matter of time before it can reach everyone on the island.  Understandably, everyone’s a little morose about their impending doom.

c4After accomplishing a typically strange set of adventure games tasks, Inferno teaches Sarah how to breathe fire.  Because that is totally a skill that a responsible adult should teach any little girl.  Sarah then goes into a fun house, where a mirror shows a freaked-out Max trying to rip off his bandages.

Anyway…

c5After the fun house, I visit the fortune teller.  She indicates that Max is actually the one piloting this Sarah avatar, and tells me that it’s my destiny to face off against the squid boy.  Hey, squid boy, squid smash — lovely ham-fisted foreshadowing there, game!

Down at the freak show, a wolf man asks me to free him, and because I’m both nice and realistic in the fact that the game won’t progress otherwise, I do.  He bounds away, looking for bones, and I follow.  He digs right into a cave full of human skeletons and starts chomping away happily.  Considering that Timber (the wolf-man) is part human at least, wouldn’t that constitute cannibalism?  It’s a moot point, as the cutscene CGI is really stiff and not scary at all, and Timber gets yanked into the Shadows of Doom by the squid boy.

c6The confrontation with the squid boy — Iggy — is another one of the game’s haphazard action sequences.  Sarah uses her fire baton to blow plumes of flame at him, and after three spurts he burns up.  I get hit once.  Why were the residents so scared of this guy?  A little 8-year-old girl was able to whoop him!

The cave exits out into a mansion, and it’s here that I’ve lost all my will to keep on playing.  Why?  Let’s go to the final thoughts to find out!

Final thoughts

Against all its advantages, Sanitarium is just not that enjoyable of a game. By about the second session, I was really reluctant to load it up to play, which is not a good sign at all.  By the fourth, I knew I was done.  I didn’t want to see how it turned out.  The promise of more story wasn’t enough of a reward to put up with this game.

It’s driving me nuts that this is the case, because it has some neat ideas, pretty striking graphics, and creepy locales.  But working against it is some of the worst writing and voice acting that I’ve encountered in an adventure game.  How the story is being written and portrayed fails what the story is trying to do, and that is a shame.  Hearing these awkward, sometimes monotonous, sometimes childish, sometimes screeching voices bombard me pushed me away from the game instead of sucking me further into it.

Not every adventure game can have stellar voice acting and writing, I know.  And I’m probably spoiled by my time in past great games like The Lonest Journey, the Monkey Island series, and pretty much everything LucasArts and Sierra did.

So yeah, I’m bailing pretty early into this playthrough, but I always reserve the right to do that because there’s no fun in slogging through miserable games.  It’s so lackluster I can’t even get good snark going to tease it, which leaves me with dry descriptions of what’s going on.  Thus, let’s move on and try another title, shall we?

Sanitarium: The courtyard and chapel

(This is part of my journey playing through Sanitarium. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

e1We’re back at the asylum for a short interlude in the courtyard.  While Max has been “away,” the tower with the cells has burned up from a second explosion and only Max survived.  Nobody, least of all him, know how Max made it out of there.

It’s time to go around and talk to the various natives, which range from Elvis and cannibals to somewhat sane heavies who talk about how Dr. Morgan likes his experiments.  Right now he’s conducting an experiment with horrible music and its effects on both the inmates and the player.

e2In fact, we even get to meet the doctor, but he’s somewhat disinsterested in casual chit-chat.  I’ll mark that up to him being a terrific tool.

e3The big question of the hour is just how much of what’s going on is in Max’s head or not.  The game makes plays at both, with some people buying into the alternate reality and some giving plausible explanations for why Max might be making all of this up.  One thing’s for certain: the world of the asylum and the supernatural occurances that Max is experiencing are linked.

e4In speaking with a young lady in front of the chapel, Max learns two important facts.  The first is that the goal of this level is to restore the water in the fountain so that he can talk to whomever this lady had been talking to.  The second — revealed in a cutscene — is that Max was a research doctor at MERCy working on some sort of drug project.  Very interesting.

e5Well, we learned one thing from the past, which is that the stained glass windows forshadow what is to come.  Crud.  I hate creepy clowns.

e6Inside the chapel we meet Preacher Bob and his lackey Norman (and his congregation of wooden manniquins).  Norman’s hands are chained to his feet, which is another indication of how this asylum is really messed up in some fundamental way.

Anyway, to fill the fountain, I had to open up the water control box.  To open the box, I need the broom.  To get the broom (or the “staff of righteousness,” as Preacher Bob calls it), I have to recover his stolen cross.  To get the cross, I need to change the music that Dr. Morgan is playing so that the man in the tutu will get up to dance.  So that whole chain starts with me swapping out records.  It’s the adventure game polka!  Gotcha.

e7That all leads to this puzzle, wherein I need to funnel all of the water to just one place, because this is totes how water control systems work.  It took me longer to do than you’d think, but it wasn’t impossible.

e8Hallelujah, praise Bob!  The water flows and I’m able to talk to the inhabitant of the fountain, a — why not? — gargoyle.  He asks me what I want more than anything else in the world, to which I (well, Max) replies, “To see my sister.”

That triggers another cutscene, where Max arrives at the deathbed of his sister Sarah and tries to get her favorite toy clown… but fails to do so before she dies.  This is such a happy game.

e9And now I’m a little girl in the middle of the “Circus of Fools.”  Dun dun DUNNNNN.

Sanitarium: Mother and the children

(This is part of my journey playing through Sanitarium. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

m1Whee!  Since I’m in a village full of kids playing games, I thought I’d amuse myself.  Whee!

…fine.  I’ll go figure out this mystery.

m2So to recap, Max (that’s me) was transported to this strange town by an angel statue who wanted me to help the kids.  The kids who, by the way, are incredibly disfigured, talk about someone called “Mother,” and won’t tell me where the other adults are.  But they sure like playing games, so why not do a bit of hide and go seek to win a key to the general store?

m3Well at least we know what happened to the adults — they’re all in the school, dead.  It’s an interesting choice of a hiding place for this one kid, I must admit.

m4I go around the town — Genet, population 250 — and do typical adventure game stuff: look for useful items, chat up the NPCs, and try to solve some basic puzzles (such as where all of the kids are hiding).

I find the five kids, but I’m then informed that there’s a sixth…

m5m6Long story short, yes, I have to dig up the corpse of a little girl to win a game of hide and go seek.  I’m not proud of it, although at least my character has the good grace to be horrified.  The kids are pretty nonchalant about the whole mutating bodies, dead parents, and corpse games.  They’re going to need a small army of psychiatrists afterward, methinks.

m7Through various files, newspaper clippings, and even this diary, I unravel the backstory of what’s happened here in Genet.  There are two threads that eventually connect.  The first is a comet that crashed into town, cutting the place off from the rest of the world.  It also sent the local preacher into a crazed fit.  The second thread is that of a dad who beat his wife and kids, eventually killing the mother and daughter (who is the girl we just dug up) (yes, “we” — you’re reading this, you’re part of the journey).  The dad wasn’t convicted since the preacher urged everyone to let him go.

m8The dreaded pumpkin patch (remember the stained glass windows from the asylum?) stands between me and the final truth.  This is when the game decides to try its hand at an action sequence, giving me a scythe and pitting me against crows and a scarecrow.  I’m not overly keen on having action sequences in adventure games, but at least this wasn’t too difficult.

Time to meet “Mother” — I head into the barn.

m9Mother turns out to be a giant plant blob alien that arrived on the comet (actually, isn’t that a meteor?  Comets are ice and snow, right?).  She took to Carol (the dead girl) early on and decided to take action against the town once Carol was murdered.  So Mother killed the adults and has been transforming the kids into “seedlings” to free them from the curse of meat.

Even though Mother has a good point about how rotten the town was, that’s no excuse to mind- and body-warp these kids.  No peaceful solution here — she’s gotta go.

m10This is where all of the items that I’ve been collecting come in handy, because the ultimate goal is to fire up the generator to electrocute mother.  Free light show, kids!

With Mother’s reign over, the kids all depart through a portal and I follow them…

m11That is an excellent question, Max.  I think the fact that you’re in a mental asylum kind of answers it, don’t you think?

Sanitarium: Where am I?

(This is part of my journey playing through Sanitarium. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

Well!  After a long trip through survival horror with System Shock 2, I thought I’d switch things up with… more horror and general creepiness?  OK, I’m a pretty predictable fellow, I suppose.  Our next retro game playthrough is going to focus on an adventure game that I know little to nothing about: Sanitarium.  It caught my eye on GOG.com a while back when it was on sale, and the idea of combing through a bizarre asylum intrigued me.  Sanitarium.  Made in 1998.  That’s all I have to go on.  Let’s start it!

aa1The game begins with a black screen, some screams, and the voice of a guy urging his coworker to evacuate, saying that the place was on fire or somesuch.  But he deliberately leaves one guy behind — I’m presuming me — because I tried to steal his car?

Anyway, when the lights come up, I find myself inhabiting a bandaged guy in a hospital smock who can’t remember who he is.  I’m calling him Amnesia Guy, or AG for short, because we have to have a little fun with this well-worn trope.  The doors are open and there are several crazy people scattered around the screen.

Amnesia and a grim setting — feels a lot like Planescape: Torment already.

aa2After shutting off a rather annoying alarm, I start chatting up the few residents that will speak to me.  It’s not really the best voice acting I’ve ever heard, especially in AG’s case, but it’s not the worst either.  “Serviceable” is the word I’ll go with here.

Each resident has a different angle on what’s going on, seeing the world in a different way.  This stuttering inmate calls this “the village,” which I guess is as good a term as any.  It’s obviously not a nice mental hospital, but a smelly gothic asylum — and the guards are gone.

aa3In the center middle is a rather ornate angel statue that lights up when I go near.  It’s also got a locking mechanism, which is my cue to start exploring all over in the hopes of finding pieces for the puzzle.  I come up with a towel.  Hey, don’t laugh at me, I’m going to conquer worlds with that towel.

More than one of the remaining residents talk about a Dr. Morgan, although they see him in different ways depending on their mental fantasies (I hope).  I need to catch up with this guy; maybe he’ll tell me what’s going on.

qqOne small detail that I note are the bizarre stained glass windows, which feature things like a scarecrow and a pumpkin patch.

aa4Oh goody, an exploding generator from the 1800’s.  That ain’t not good.  Time to get to the middle control room, and to do that I use my handy dandy towel to zip line down there.  Towels: Don’t leave Earth without them!

qq2The control tower holds a few more snippets of info.  There’s a VHS tape that shows me with the doctor, who is talking about my failed escape via stolen car, and in another files I read that there’s some sort of Aztec artifact here in the asylum.  Well, that clears everything up!

Unfortuantely, I discovered that if I press any button during the cutscenes, it exits out of them, so I can’t take screenshots with FRAPS.  Sorry!

The key goes right into the base of the angel statue, which predictably comes alive and starts weeping blood and chewing me out.  The angel is less concerned about answering my questions than it is about the fates of innocent children.  It then wraps its wings about me and transports me into the middle of the creepiest town ever.

qq3This is the setting for Chapter 2 (man, Chapter 1 was dang quick!).  I pop into a town square where children are playing nearby.  Of course, they’re horribly mutated children (one has two mouths, another has two peg legs) and there’s nary an adult to be seen.

qq5The kids are relatively friendly after I remember that my name is “Max,” although they keep mentioning “Mother” and seem a little in awe/scared of her.  Apparently Mother is the one who disfigured the kids, all of whom seem happy with the changes.

qq4The horror!  The horror!

Nearing the cemetary, a cutscene shows me a news report talking about unexplained child deaths “world wide.”  I guess this is not going to be a happy-go-lucky game, is it?  But I’ve got to say one thing, which is that I’m very intrigued with where all of this is going — and where I am.  Am I in my own head?

System Shock 2: Inner space

(This is part of my journey playing through System Shock 2. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

q1I think we’re going to finish up System Shock 2 today.  Cool with you?  I’m so ready!

My escape pod crashed (because of course it did) right into the Many biomass.  Time to engage in a bunch of annoying running around inside of an ugly organism that makes navigation a total headache!

q2The body of the Many contains some odd rooms from the Rickenbacker, which allows me a few opportunities to refuel and resupply.  Oh recharger, how I’ve missed you!

q3I’m seriously not a fan of this level.  One area has me swimming around a watery maze while radiation is pelting me from all sides, while another has giant chomping teeth that present a jumping puzzle.  As you might recall, platforming is NOT what System Shock 2 does well, so this room took quite a few reloads.

Probably the only entertaining aspect of the level is the story that unfolds from the audio logs, wherein a scientist has explored this biomass (um, when?  It was just formed like 10 minutes ago) and is morbidly detailing all of the horrible things that are going on, including his own capture and assimilation.

q4This watery (artery?) corridor led to the boss fight of the level, which was so chaotic that I couldn’t get a screenshot off.  Mostly it involved me yelling while I’m running like a loony, shooting a giant mother brain while avoiding craptons of mobs.

q5Following the brain boss fight, I jump down a hole and find myself back in the Rickenbacker… but not really.  No, it’s SHODAN’s mind, since she’s capable of constructing her own cyberreality.  She cackles that she wasn’t really going to destroy the Von Braun (duh) but was going to head back to Earth and enslave everyone in her own reality.  Well!  I never!  This shall not stand!

q6The SHODAN level isn’t tough at all — a few assassins to kill and floaty polygons to avoid.  Apparently this is a recreation of Citadel Station from System Shock 1, which will be a huge treat to the six fans who actually played that back in the early 90s.

q7The final SHODOWN (um… get it?) isn’t that hard in comparison to what came before.  I’m dumped into a little room where her mask floats behind a shield because SHODAN is a coward.  Come out and pick on someone 1/1000th your size and capabilities!

The fight involves dodging her attacks, taking out the occasional holographic avatar, and hacking into the three shield stations so that I can attack the juicy center there.  My trusty EMP rifle — truly the best weapon in the game — is of great use here.

And then… the game dumped me out to the main menu.  For some reason, the second I finish the boss fight, instead of showing me the ending it just abruptly ends the game.  Stupid glitch.  Oh well, to YouTube for my well-deserved final coda!

q8SHODAN tries to tempt me into joining her so that we can rule together, blah de blah blah, but all I’m thinking about in this final cutscene is, “Boy, am I one ugly, ugly chum!  Do I even have eyes anymore?”  And then my character says his one and only line of the game in response to SHODAN’s offer:

“Nah,”

q9SHODAN gets blasted well and good.  Serves you right, trying to enslave humanity and all!

q10The final stinger comes on board the escape pod with Tommy and Rebecca.  They get word from me that the Von Braun is back under control, but as Tommy plans to turn around, Rebecca gets up from her nap and asks Tommy if he likes her new look.  So I guess SHODAN lives after all?  Boom.  The end.

Final Thoughts

Putting aside its sometimes complex inventory mechanics and crude polygon people, System Shock 2 is simply a masterpiece even today.  It’s an interesting blend of CRPG, survival horror, and first-person shooter with a story that you both experience and hear (the latter in the form of the logs).  The use of sound, limited ammo, and a ship out to get you is really nerve-wracking, at least during the first third or so of the game.  You feel alone, outnumbered, and facing death at every turn.  It was really exhilerating to beat it.

Probably my biggest criticism is that from the Rickenbacker on, everything seems very rushed.  The Von Braun is a marvelously detailed micro-world, whereas the Rickenbacker, Many, and SHODAN are linear levels with little new to add.  I also couldn’t find more than a clip or two for my assault rifle in the entire game, so either I missed something (maybe a replicator?) or the game was screwing with me.

Obviously, the fact that I made it to the end of this long playthrough is testimony to SS2’s gripping narrative and gameplay.  I’m glad I can put this in my “have played and beaten” list, especially after having gone through SS2’s spiritual successor, BioShock, many years earlier.