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General Error

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Race Track (Windows 3.x)

By General Error on January 10, 2021

Softporn Adventure (DOS)

By General Error on December 23, 2019

Astro-Dodge (PC Booter)

By General Error on September 21, 2015

Might and Magic: Book One - Secret of the Inner Sanctum (DOS)

Great game design -- highly difficult, but extremely rewarding

The Good
As about every other reviewer noted, Might and Magic I is an extremely challenging game. From the beginning right to the very end, there is a real chance of your party being wiped out at each and every step. This may not sound so hot to the casual gamer, and indeed this game is not meant for casual gaming -- you have to really dig into it. But once you do (and you have survived the insanely hard beginning), you'll realize how well this game is designed.

Leveling up really MEANS something here -- your party gets stronger, but it does so slowly, and your characters do not evolve into some kind of fantasy superheroes capable of slaying a handful of dragons with a single stroke. Loot is always something to carefully check out and never something you'll routinely just cust a Detect Magic on and let it lie -- gold is sparse and keeps being valuable throughout the game, so at least pick it up to sell it (but as the backpack sizes are very limited, you'll have to choose carefully).

The monsters and their powers are very varied, and you'll have to study them and prepare for combat as best you can. And even at the end of the game, you'll meet monsters that you should run away from.

The game is highly non-linear, so you'll have can (and have to) freely explore the vast world on your own. However, I found the difficulty levels of the areas well balanced, so that you'll quickly steer into the right (= not too difficult!) direction.

The user interface is easy to learn and effective to use after a few minutes, and even the graphics are nice -- not really colorful or opulent in any way, but the monsters are nicely pixeled, and the graphics never distract from the actual game play -- indeed, the game has, IMO, more atmosphere than MM2 or Bard's Tale due to the nearly abstract feel of the graphics.

The Bad
The only thing that comes to my mind is the beginning. It's INSANELY hard. Even after finding a good grinding place, it will take you hours to get your characters to level 2, allowing you to venture a bit further than just a few steps from the inn. It would be nice if Mr. Van Carneghem would provide the starting party some more gold to get some decent equipment instead of a few clubs and daggers.

The Bottom Line
Might and Magic 1 is definitely not something for beginners or for casual gamers. In the end, it's -- like any other good RPG -- a complex resource management game: You'll have to think and keep thinking about what to carry, and what to use when, and what to sell and buy, and how to improve your party.

It is highly difficult, but this means it provides a challenging experience for many, many hours -- it took me at least a hundred gaming hours to win this game, and even this with some help from walkthroughs. However, I never felt bored once -- once you get into it, it keeps staying a challenging, but highly rewarding experience.

I can heartily recommend this game to all those looking for a challenging early RPG. It could be seen as a great mix of Bard's Tale and Wizardry, taking the best elements of both and evading their weaknesses.

By General Error on August 15, 2015

Executive Suite (PC Booter)

By General Error on December 9, 2014

Ultima II: The Revenge of the Enchantress... (DOS)

(Don't) Sing That Ole Blue Tassel Blues (Never Again)

The Good
Hm... good question... Let me think...

Well one nice thing is that it's got a BIG game world. Not only have you got 15 large outdoor maps, you've also got about 30 indoor maps. Each map is 64x64, so you've got a lot to explore... and I usually like games which give the possibility to explore. However... well, see below.

Then, the timegates' concept and implementation is nice, and also nicely confusing, at first. It was fun to figure out all those connections between the different eras and where they lead to, and to explore the different cities in the different time zones is fun.

A third thing I liked was this silly, zany humor. Meeting the creators of Wizardry shouting "Copy protect! Copy protect!" is genuinely funny... However, after a while, it gets somewhat tiresome, and in the end, it kind of got on my nerves. Again, see the next section.

Finally, the playability is good, as with all Ultimas I've played. Lots of keyboard commands, which are pretty easy to remember, especially if you played other old Ultimas before.

Now let's see what's wrong with this game.

The Bad
Well, there mainly are two things:

  1. BIG, EMPTY, UNINTERESTING GAME WORLD

I said the game world is BIG. And it is. In fact, it is even bigger (in pure map-cell-count terms) than Ultima 3. However, it is also quite BORING. Yes, boring. On most of the maps, nothing much happens. Overworld has monsters, towns have shops, but that's it. Of course, there's some NPCs walking around, but after a while, I realized that most of them really had nothing useful to say. Some chuckles here and there, of course, but it wasn't really enough to keep me motivated. In the end, I started hating running around these great big maps and had to force myself talking to each NPC, so that I wouldn't miss one of those rare hints. In fact, pretty much every important thing is in a single city.

In fact, many party of the game are completely uninteresting. For example, you don't EVER need to enter a single dungeon. So the whold 1st person 3D part of the game is unnecessary. I just hate this kind of waste. If it's not necessary, why is it there? It's superfluous. sigh

And it gets even worse in space. There are ten planets to explore, about half of them are completely empty, and all but one have nothing interesting whatsoever. No interesting locations, no hints, just silly NPCs telling silly jokes. And the worst thing is that you can not save in space, and that landing on some of the planets takes very good timing and luck.

  1. LUCK INSTEAD OF GAME DESIGN

Oh yes, luck... That's the absolutely worst part of this game. Richard Garriott though he could do without game design and just rely on the bloody random number generator. Let me tell you...

When I started my first game, I ran around, bought some equipment and food, talked to NPCs, and began slaying monsters. (Actually, I didn't buy food, I stole about 6000 food in the second town I went to and NEVER had to care about this problem anymore. Call that game design? I don't!) I quickly realized that the rewards you get for fighting monsters (gold and XP) are totally random. You get the same XP for fighting a guard that does 200 hits and for fighting a measly orc. Call that game design? I don't.

Anyway, after about one hour of running around and fighting, I started to feel bored. Running from Afrika to South America and back for the n-th time isn't that much fun, and the "bash, get bashed, bash, get bashed"-style combat isn't exactly exiting neither. It doesn't help that monsters randomly spawn on islands which you cannot reach. However, you'll need LOTS of money for healing, then you need LOTS of money buying good equipment, and then you'll need even MORE money for improving your stats so that you can USE this equipment. This doesn't have to be bad, but really -- after an hour of running around and hitting monsters, I felt I hadn't advanced one bit. I started getting annoyed.

Then, a friendly bartender make me realize that I probably needed a "Blue Tassel" to get on board a ship, whose cannons make grinding more fun and less tiresome. So how do you get this thing? Well, you need to be lucky, punk! You need to kill a thief and hope that he drops a Blue Tassel! Of course, you may get it after the first battle. However, in my game, I took me about two bloody hours of running around until I had this bloody Tassel. Then, run around some more and start looking for a ship. After a mere hour, I found one. Try boarding it... WTF? They don't let me? What about my Blue... Huh? WHERE THE FUCK IS MY BLUE TASSEL?!!! Well, another thief must have stolen it from me in a later battle, without me noticing. Haha!

I stared blankly at the screen for a while. I cursed Garriott and his breed up to the fifth generation. Then I saved the game, exited, started my trusty hex editor, and played god. I hex'ed me loads of Blue Tassels, just to be sure. And then, I also hex'ed me a nice supply of gold. Because, frankly, I was PISSED of running around through the empty worlds of Ultima II, going nowhere for hours. I usually enjoy hard games (I've been playing Rogue for nearly 20 years now and have never won, see), but Ultima II isn't hard. It's just tiresome. In the end, it's a game of chance -- in fact, in another game I started later for checking stuff out, I had a pirate ship after 10 minutes.

I also read a walkthrough to make sure I didn't miss anything. No, it's pure luck.

If I hadn't cheated, I would have had to grind away for hours. It IS somewhat easier and more fun with the pirate ship, but it still takes HOURS of boring grinding to get the money needed to get good enough to finish this game.

Ah yes. One more thing I just remembered. There's one place in the game where you can increase your stats. And you need to do it, because otherwise, you won't be able to use this better equipment. So you go to that place, pay you're hard-earned 100 gold (the equivalent of 10 boring fights), and then... well, if you're lucky, a random attribute is raised, if not -- 10 minutes of your time wasted. And even if you're lucky, you may well have your wisdom raised which doesn't help you a single bit. You may spend 1000 gold and NEVER have your dexterity or strength increased. God, this game really PISSES me off! I like SOME randomness, I like SOME frustration, but Ultima II just isn't so rewarding that I can take this.

The Bottom Line
Easy. It was an incredibly disappointment. Ultima II is by far the worst Ultima I've played yet (U1-4). It's MUCH worse than Ultima III, it's even much worse than Ultima I. It's probably the worst Ultima ever, and it also belongs to one of the worst role-playing games I've ever played. I'd even prefer Telengard or Dunjonquest to this. It's repetitive, tiresome, boring and frustrating, it replaces player skill and game design with pure chance, and it's big, big game world is essentially empty and boring, full of unhelpful and uninteresting NPCs that are just there to tell you silly jokes.

Garriott obviously was experimenting with his RPG formula developed in Akalabeth and Ultima I. He obviously wanted to make it epic -- but he primarily made it BIG, and forgot pretty much everything else. The game design is horrible, the atmosphere is pretty much non-existent, and the game soon begins to be just tiresome.

I really enjoyed both Ultima I and Ultima III, and Ultima II clearly is the missing link between both, having some of both games' elements, but the whole game feels so unfocused and patchy that I strongly suspect that Richard Garriott was on drugs when he created this game. The computer gaming world can be glad that Garriott obviously learned from his errors here, and pulled himself together for the wonderful Ultima III but one year later, not to mention the justly famous Ultima IV.

I really had to force myself to finish this game. In many respects, this game tortures the player. Right down to the big boss fight at the end. The Enchantress is not too hard to kill -- but you'll have to do it not once, not twice, no -- all in all it's six times. And every time, you'll have to run through her whole castle again. Then again, I didn't expect otherwise. I'm glad to be through with this game, and I'll never touch it ever again. Just thinking of it makes me angry. Blue Tassel. AARRRGH!!

After having played both U2 and U3, I'm really wondering why the hell does U2 get a score of 3.93 on Moby, while U3 which is MUCH closer to U4 than to U2 gets only 3.71?! At least the U2 reviews all say this game sucks, more or less.

By General Error on October 25, 2012

Questron II (DOS)

Not an RPG: an action-adventure (without action and adventure)

The Good
Okay, let's start with the few good things about this game:

Questron II features a large game world with a variety of maps in different styles: There's two large overworld maps; there's dozens of cities, castles and cathedrals of varying sizes; there's two very large tomb mazes, and finally, there's two multi-level dungeons in first person view. The dungeons even feature an early pseudo-automapping; "pseudo" because it's not saved when you leave the dungeon.

The DOS version has pretty nice EGA graphics for its time. The character has a cute, if pointless walking animation, and especially the dungeons are nicely pixeled -- a pity that they only appear in the last part of the game. The gameplay also is okay and easy enough to learn and get into.

Finally, there's one or two fine examples of storytelling in the game. My favourite moment: At one point, you''ll have to re-visit a town after the evil wizard has arrived there. When you enter it, you'll find it deserted, destroyed and full of dead people, instead of the thriving merchant city it was before. This change in mood was quite unexpected and even shocking; I love when a game achieves to make you feel something.

The Bad
Unfortunately, those fine moments are rare. I found the rest of the game somewhat less inspiring, to say the least.

Let's begin with that annoying copy protection. Each time you enter a town, there's a chance that you'll have to answer a question from the manual. Some of the questions are easy, but many of them ask for a monster with a special characteristics, forcing you to carefully read the 9 pages of monster descriptions over and over again. Yes, the descriptions are vivid and made with love and attention to detail, but I really throws you out of the game flow.

What makes it especially bad is that none of the monsters really shows any of the described characteristics. The only difference I noticed between the dozens of monsters was that some are easier to kill with normal combat, while some are easier to kill with magic. This lack of variety in monster characteristics and combat tactics makes combat pretty boring. In most of the fights, and didn't even care to check what I was fighting.

Same goes for the NPCs in cities. Even worse here, every single one of them has the same random remarks. After five minutes, those people just get annoying because they're in your way, otherwise, you completely ignore them. This really kills the atmosphere, and although the game world is big, it's not really interesting or fun to explore.

Next: Balancing. Especially for a beginner RPG, I found the game quite frustrating at the beginning. You'll have LOTS of random encounters while travelling overland, and lose even more hit points, but you never get enough loot from it to even pay the healer. I died three times -- at least I was resurrected, given 200 gold and could start again. In fact, those 200 gold was my main source of income until I found out that A) it's better to simple evade all those encounters, and B) there's a specific gambling game with very favourable payout. After half an hour, I had tens of thousands of gold pieces, and I never did fight a single random encounter again -- I just ignored them. Whenever I needed money, I gambled a bit and was rich again. I don't call that good game design.

On to my next gripe: Despite the big and apparently open game world, the game turns out to be completely linear. Because for entereing the interesting locations, you always require some special item found at another location. In fact, finding items and walking to a specific location with them is the main plot advancement mechanism. I may be the only one; I can't remember any other one. I know this was supposed to be a simple beginner's RPG, but THAT simple? Naaah.

Finally, what I intensely disliked was the fact that the game actually forced me to slaughter all guards and loot all the treasure in the castles of the land's rulers (you need an item in one of the treasure chests, see?). I mean, I'm supposed to be the good guy, sent through time and space to save the bloody land, no? So why in hell do I have to mercilessly slaughter all those poor, innocent guards?! (I know that this is a problem in most early games, and the main reason for Ultima IV -- but still, this is called a ROLE playing game.) The second king even mentioned that he wasn't too happy with me killing all his staff, but that he needed a hero anyway, and that through this bloodbath I had proved myself. Oh dear...

Ah, I just remembered one more thing: Actually, this isn't even a role-playing game as per Mobygames' definition. In Questron II, character advancement doesn't happen gradually through your actions, but at specific points during the plot. (Bringing the right item to the right place, yeehaw.)

The Bottom Line
I started playing Questron II as owned it about 15 years ago, but couldn't remember much about it. And after finishing the first three Ultimas, I was looking for an easy little light RPG. Well I've been served: Light it was -- but it wasn't really enjoyable, and it actually wasn't even a role-playing game.

Although there is a big game world, it is not really fun to explore, as the locations, monsters and NPCs all lack any originality or character. The game consists of running around, evading all fights, finding some item, and then running around some more to see what changes with that item. And gamble if you're low on dough.

I was lucky that I was in a mood where I really didn't care too much, and had enough time to get to the last part of the game, because there, the designers suddenly started building in some little ideas which made the game fun -- like entering the town destroyed by evil, or the dungeons which were fun to explore. Up to that point, I had spent maybe four or five hours with the game, and I would have abandoned it soon. If the designers had spent some more attention to detail and atmosphere for the first 75% of the game, it could have been fun.

Still, there's one thing I admire about Questron II: The nerve of SSI to release this game in 1988, side by side with games like Pool of Radiance or Ultima V. Questron II looks hopelessly and utterly outdated. Its large game world and simple gameplay would have made it a decent game in 1984 (year of Questron I, which I haven't play, but which I imagine is quite similar); but the flat NPCs, the nondescript and interchangeable monsters, and the primitive plot advancement mechanism make it look and feel more like a kind of turn-based Gauntlet variant than a real role-playing game -- which it, in fact, isn't.

So all in all, if you're looking for a decent "light" role-playing game from the beginnigs of RPG history -- my recommendation is to look somewhere else. This is really too light and uninteresting for all but the most braindead players. And it isn't even an RPG -- I don't really know what it is. So I would describe it as an action-adventure -- without action and adventure, though.

By General Error on October 14, 2012

Beneath Apple Manor (PC Booter)

By General Error on October 8, 2012

Beneath Apple Manor (Atari 8-bit)

By General Error on October 8, 2012

Beneath Apple Manor (Apple II)

By General Error on October 8, 2012

Exodus: Ultima III (DOS)

Great design, great atmosphere -- still highly enjoyable today

The Good
*** WARNING: Mild spoilers ***

Unlike Ultima II, whose bad game design truly appalled me, Garriott got nearly everything right here. I really was afraid that Ultima III may be just as bad, but thankfully, it's quite the contrary.

Character generation already is the first sign of some good game design. This is the first Ultima game in which you lead a party of characters, not a single maverick. Although character creation is very basic (choose name, sex [including 'other'], race and class; distribute points; done), there are enough classes that assembling a cool, balanced party is already quite challenging. There are four base classes, but several mixed classes. In fact, I created three parties in the course of playing the game, and I still haven't found the "perfect" one.

Once you start playing, you'll notice pretty soon that Garriott took MUCH more care in designing the maps and NPCs. Ultima II actually is bigger than Ultima III, if you just count the number of squares -- but one thing I hated about U2 was that many of those maps just were unnecessary for the game, and some of them (as in space) were even totally empty. If not, most of the NPCs just gibbered nonsense.

Here, each location serves a purpose, and each has its own feel, and often some special that only appears there. While Britain is more or less a straight fantasy setup, Yew is a small village full of clerics and dark forests. Grey is a somewhat dubious town; unlike in Britain, the guards here will bark a "Watch it Bub!" as a greeting, and the pub is crammed full of fighters, with the much-needed thieves' guild in a backroom. Or that mystical place called Dawn, which you'll try to reach in the beginning of the game. "Dawn lasts only a brief moment" -- which means that it only appears at a special time, indicated by the moons. (Yes, Ultima III introduced moongates.)

Back in 1983, this was a degree of detail and atmosphere of the game world absolutely unheard of in role-playing games. For me, atmosphere is one of the most important things in games. It helps to create an image in your mind. And even if you'll have to grind a lot in this game too (RPGs should be called "Grinding games" anyway), it didn't get boring a bit. It took me a while to find a good grinding route, and though I must have plundered this poor town dozens and dozens of time, it was fun. I mean, the guards literally invited me, telling me to bribe them.

There are many other examples of Garriott's great game design -- which I strongly started to doubt while playing U2. This game keeps surprising you. For example, I once stumbled upon an easily accessible room full of treasure chests in a town. I never dreamed of stealing it -- being level 1, I wanted no stress with the guards --, but just went to have a look. Once inside, a thief hidden in an previously unseen corner of the room attacked me. I had no choice but to defend myself -- however, the guards don't like fights in their cities and went after me. Although this example is a little unfair, I just loved it. It was a great use of the game mechanics to give the player a nasty little surprise.

Another example is that whirlpool that moves randomly out in the ocean. After I had won my first ship by fighting the pirates (using that cool "Pirate ship/land combat map" I remember well from Ultima IV), I had left it by the coast while riding to another part of Sosaria. Suddenly, the beeper makes a weird noise and I read: "A ship was destroyed." I knew that could only be the whirlpool. When, after much searching, I found another ship, I took care to always leave it at the source of the longest river I could find, so that the whirlpool is less likely to reach it. I also was terrified of that whirlpool while sailing the oceans, looking for that mystical "Ambrosia" people kept telling me about, and kept sailing away from it as soon as I saw it (it moves lightning-fast, the bastard). Of course, after some time, the pool got me... And oh, what a surprise that was! Another moment in my personal gaming history I won't forget.

I also liked the way the game unfolds. Never once I was stranded somewhere, not knowing what to do. In fact, it would have been the other way round if I hadn't kept notes (a "to do" list). While exploring, you'll learn about cards, marks, panels, shrines and whatnot, and slowly, you'll learn what they are, how they work, and what they've got to do with your quest.

Apart from the great game design, there's a lot of smaller and larger technical details that add to the experience. For example, U3 introduces line-of-sight visibility and makes great use of it. For example, many hints (or city guards) are hidden in deep forests. Although this makes exploring a little hard, it is rewarding, as -- unlike as in U2 -- if the NPCs say something, it either adds to the atmosphere, or it contains some hint.

I can't complain about the gameplay either. You'll learn the basic commands pretty soon (most are similar to other early Ultimas), and the game plays quick and smoothly. Some of the dialogues are a bit uneven (sometimes requiring player first, then direction; sometimes the other way round), but there wasn't many of those fun-killing "Huh? What the fuck does that stupid game do now!?" stuff.

One last thing I have to mention is the combat. In U2, you had simple "bash me, bash you". Here, similar to U4, a combat map opens, depending on the territory you're on, and you'll have to fight intelligently, developing several strategies and tactics, to survive. It reminds me a lot of SSI's Gold Box games, albeit much simpler.

The Bad
I have a few gripes about Ultima III. My main one being that leveling up is quite uneven. You level up every 100 experience points, regardless of your level. Which means you'll spend HOURS getting to second level (my party died three times) at the beginning of the game, when lowly orcs are a challenge. However, at the end of the game, when even Lord British refused to level me up any higher, it took me a mere MINUTES -- a few fights with guards -- to gain another level.

Another annoying thing was that autosave feature: The bloody game saves your characters as soon as one of them dies. I mean, being a roguelike fanatic, one should think that I'd appreciate that "permadeath" feature. But permadeath is only okay if it doesn't take hours to build up the character. Here, I just found it annoying. However, once you get past the difficult beginnings, dead characters become less of a drag, with having more money and even spells.

As mentioned, some of the user interface could have been a bit smoother, but it didn't suck. Also CGA graphics aren't my cup of tea, but then again, there's the Exodus Upgrade which gives you U4-style EGA graphics, but which I didn't use as I wanted the original.

The Bottom Line
All in all, Ultima III is actually pretty amazing for its time, and still worth playing today, after 29 years (and counting)!

It's got tons of atmosphere, a consistent, imaginative and varied game world. It's game mechanics pretty simple, so the game is easy to get into. But the game design is great, and it uses its mechanics to maximum effect, providing lots of surprises, some nasty, some nice. I really enjoyed the game from start to finish, thoroughly exploring the world. I even continued after I solved it, to answer a few open questions. Like: Can you kill Lord British? (Answer: Yes, you can, even if Garriott made him invincible in combat. But he forgot that ship in the castle.)

After Ultima II, which is extremely uneven, boring and just plain badly designed, Ultima III shows that Garriott knows how to create great games. It definitively is a big step towards Ultima IV -- in fact, I had the feeling that all basic game mechanics are already present and working in Ultima III (but I played U4 about 15 years ago, so...).

In fact, I can imagine that I may like this just as much or even better than Ultima IV. U3 isn't politically correct. And even if it's not much in my role as saviour of the world, I enjoy being evil and nasty, slaughter entire villages and rob their gold, from time to time. I also liked Lord British's luxurious torture chamber, where he burns and drowns jesters who were naughty. I think I'll miss that in Ultima IV, which I'm definitively planning to play some time soon.

By General Error on October 6, 2012

Dungeon Campaign (Apple II)

By General Error on September 10, 2012

Knights of Xentar (DOS)

By General Error on August 15, 2012

Ultima I (DOS)

By General Error on July 27, 2012

Boulder Dash (PC Booter)

By General Error on September 5, 2011

Frogger (PC Booter)

By General Error on September 2, 2011

Planetfall (DOS)

Witty, atmospheric and emotional

The Good
Steve Meretzky's first game is still one of the my favourite Infocom games ever.

First of all, it's because of Floyd -- of course! Meretzky had the marvelous idea to give the player a sidekick, in form of this little robot, giving him a childish personality that you simply cannot dislike. He doesn't really become part of the plot until far into the game, but he makes you emotionally attached to the game, and he makes the exploration of the planet very enjoyable. (Besides giving some valuable hints.)

However, later in the game, he BECOMES an integral part of the plot. I don't want to disclose too much, but if you get far enough, I can assure there will one of those rare moments in computer gaming where you (if you have a heart or two) will feel truly sad and moved by the game. For this alone, this game deserves its place in the pantheon of great computer games.

But it's not just Floyd who is responsible for the great atmosphere of this game. The building complex that you'll explore is wide and realistic. First, you need to eat and sleep from time to time. (Some people hat that; I don't. I would have loved it if you had to go to the toilets too!) Then, there are lots of useless rooms -- dormitories, toilets etc. -- but they add to the feeling that you're exploring a large building that has been struck by disaster. I especially liked the native language that is used on the whole station -- a distorted kind of English, which is understandable, but only with some effort. A genial way of conveying a feeling of strangeness.

And of course, there's this great humor of Meretzky -- one of the wittiest writers and game designers in gaming history, IMO. Not that there's one gag after the other -- the whole game is actually serious and dramatic; as you get further, you'll discover that you have caught a deadly disease, and your condition will get worse and worse, unless you can solve the game. There are even some horror elements at the end of the game, when you are chased by mutants through the empty station. But still, every few minutes, you'll find some little hidden joke that'll make you chuckle.

The Bad
The only thing that I really, really didn't like is the very last puzzle -- how to escape from the mutants. Normally, Infocom gives you at least a minor hint somewhere, but here, it's all luck to find the way. Well, maybe I missed something... (EDIT: I did... still, the hint is very subtle.)

Another thing I'm not too fond of is that massive use of red herrings. I haven't got anything against a few red herrings, but here it's gotten too much. Like the helicopter -- you'll even find a manual how to operate it, but you'll never be able to.

The Bottom Line
This is a really great introductory IF adventure, especially for fans of humorous science fiction. It has everything -- a dramatic plot, a big, logical, realistic world to explore, and, best of all -- the loveable NPC robot Floyd. The game has one of the most memorable and emotional scenes in computing history. The game is very funny, dramatic, and horrible, and the difficulty level is OK (with a few exceptions). Together with Infocom's unique parser, this is definitely recommended -- nay, a must -- for each retrogamer.

And I'm sure that the Space Quest writers were heavily inspired by Planetfall...

By General Error on August 31, 2011

Zork III: The Dungeon Master (DOS)

The Ultima IV among the Zorks

The Good
(WARNING: This review contains some spoilers.)

Unlike Zork I and II, this part has a very own atmosphere, the game feels more alive and absorbing than the first two parts. It seems to me that Lebling and Blank were somewhat fed up with the players hunting treasures and points. This is no treasure crawl anymore. Instead, you are tested, in so unusual aspects as patience, compassion and humility (yes, years before Ultima IV!). So the usual routine of "kill everything that moves, grab everything that doesn't" doesn't really work here.

I think the designers made a conscious effort of getting the players away from that primitivity that, in the beginning of adventuring, may have been helpful, but which severely limited the genre. Just the fact that there are only a measly 7 points to get, and that, even if you have them all, you're still far from having finished the game.

Zork III also features some wonderful puzzles, like the one in the cave beside the lake, where you can (and have to) visit rooms from Zork I, II and III and even Enchanter, or the lovely time-travel puzzle, or the great Sokoban-style Royal Puzzle. The puzzles are pretty hard, but I found them easier than Zork II, because the whole atmosphere makes you be more in the game than in the previous Zorks.

The Bad
Hmm... well one thing that I found a bit frustrating and unfair was that earthquake that occurs after some time, and which, if you haven't done this or that by the time, makes the game unsolvable. They should have made it clearer that this earthquake has a profound impact on the cave.

The Bottom Line
This is the most mature all Zork games, and the one that tries to break the usual treasure crawl routine in a very refreshing and challenging way. It also has a a wonderful, dark and intense atmosphere that made it easier to get into the game; the typical Zorkian humor is far more subtle here (but it is there -- hello sailor!).

I liked Zork I very much for its Colossal Cave-inspired nerdiness and its straightforward treasure crawl feel. Zork II was somewhat disappointing, I felt -- it tried to be more than a crawl, by mixing in some untypical elements, but the mix didn't work out so well. Zork III, however, completely reinvents the genre. I felt it very enjoyable from start to finish, and a great ending for a great trilogy.

In fact, for experienced adventure gamers that want to "get into" Zork, I would maybe even recommend this. The logical choice Zork I may be just too "pure crawl" for today's spoiled brats.

By General Error on August 30, 2011

Rogue Clone (DOS)

By General Error on August 29, 2011

robotfindskitten3d (Windows)

By General Error on August 29, 2011

robotfindskitten (DOS)

By General Error on August 29, 2011

Starcross (DOS)

By General Error on August 29, 2011

Rogue (DOS)

My all-time favourite!

The Good
Rogue was created around 1980, so it is more than 30 years old. And still it is one of the most playable and re-playable games that I ever played.

It's not a coincidence that Rogue started a whole sub-genre of "Rogue-likes", just like the original Colossal Cave ADVENT started the adventure genre. Similarly, not only the idea is great and innovative (for its time!), but also the execution of that idea is flawless.

So what's the idea here? The idea is to maximize replayability -- with any means necessary. First of all, the map is randomized. Every time you start a game, every level is created anew. (Don't even bother drawing maps!)

But not only the maps are randomly generated, also the potions, scrolls, rings and staffs you can find are random. The only thing you'll now is their outer appearance (blue potion etc.), but to know what it does, you'll have to drink it -- pardon: Quaff it!

Sounds masochistic? Well, read on. Because one more thing this game has, it has perma-death. Which means that you only have one save game, which is deleted each time you load it. Which, in practice, means that if you die, you're DEAD. Your game is gone, and you have to start anew.

So why do I think this is great? Shouldn't this be just incredibly frustrating? Well, it depends on your frame of mind. If you play for WINNING, forget it. I have played this game for twenty years, and I have NEVER won. But if you play it just for the fun of it, just playing for the sake of playing, this game will make you hooked.

As so many in this game is luck, you'll slowly develop complicated strategies. In fact, Rogue is not so much a role-playing game as it is a strategy game, like chess. I won't spoil the fun of discovering your own strategy, but even after 20 years of playing this game, I still find minor ways of improving my strategy. That's real DEPTH, folks, try to do that for any game of today.

Then, all these restrictions don't give you the freedom of actually playing, but they also create an incredible immersive feel. Yes, even though you're just staring at ASCII characters, on the lower levels, I often start thinking for several minutes on a single move, -- just like in chess. One wrong move, and the game may be over, and you'll need hundreds of games before getting a two-handed sword +3 again. (Speaking of which, I will always remember one day when I was on level 16 and accidentally THREW such a killer sword at some G (griffin) instead of attacking it, which left me without any weapon.) Or I actually jump if I walk around, wounded badly, and suddenly stand beside to some T (troll) in a dark room. This really sucks you into the game.

I love the way this game works. It gets incredibly hard on the lower levels, you shouldn't even try to fight, so you'll have to develop complex strategies to flee from dragons and whatnot while trying to discover that bloody amulet... and still, the best strategy can be blown if you just have bad luck... But this is just part of this game.

I can understand that for many gamers of today, a game like this has not too much appeal. However, if you start getting into it, you'll realize that this game is much more than a simple randomized RPG. It is a quite complex strategy game.

I keep thinking of Nolan Bushnell's law: "A great game has to be easy to learn, but hard to master." Rogue is exactly that. A great game, nay: A perfect game.

In fact, it is the only one I rated 5 on every aspect.

The Bad
Frankly, you know what? I don't think this game has any weak spots. I even like non-existing graphics and sound -- this way I'm free to imagine the D's and T's just as I want them to be. And as I said, as this is much more like chess than like a standard RPG, the abstract presentation helps you to concentrate on the important things, like gameplay, y'know.

The Bottom Line
I find it really hard to describe thinks that I find perfect. I guess most people will feel frustrated when playing this. You have to be in a certain frame of mind; you should not be playing to win, but you should just play to play. It's some kind of Zen, you know.

If, after this review, you still think this game is interesting, give it a try, but you've been warned! You'll first find it completely frustrating, but after a while (which may be too long for today's standards), I can assure you that you will be completely hooked.

By General Error on August 25, 2011

Zork: The Great Underground Empire (DOS)

By General Error on August 25, 2011

Zork II: The Wizard of Frobozz (DOS)

By General Error on August 25, 2011

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