Posts Tagged ‘1990s’

The 11th Hour Review

The 11th Hour Featured

The 11th Hour Boxart

Developer: Trilobyte Games
Publisher: Night Dive Studios – Contact
Platform: PC – Amazon, DotEmu, GamersGate, GOG*, Steam

A few years after The 7th Guest came out, Trilobyte returned with a sequel. In The 11th Hour, 60 years have passed since the murders at Stauf Mansion. So what purpose does anyone have digging around in there “today”? A TV series by the name of Case Unsolved has decided the mansion would make a perfect story for their show, of course! But all the evils of the first game still exist and they ensnare the show’s producer, luring you in to (hopefully) save her before it’s too late.

The more modern telling of The 11th Hour is a boon as it leads to more “natural” acting over the original. Here we’re not simply enjoying the farce but actually getting involved in the narrative (there are still some really, really goofy moments though). Some may still find it pretty hokey, but some of the later reveals actually ensnared me. This is aided by much higher quality video quality as well which looks more like a TV show than a poorly green-screened cast. This was possible because now you rarely see characters interacting in the CG environment, although it still occurs from time to time.

The 11th Hour Featured

Despite the modern setting, The 11th Hour is still a very similar game to its predecessor. That means you’re still going to be maneuvering around via a first person point and click perspective. However, this has been updated with camera motions that make it seem like the player is actually traversing the building, rather than just looking at a series of slideshows. The pre-rendered backdrops also look better with improved textures and lighting. I’m glad that they decided to keep the finger-wagging skeleton hand cursor despite the upgrades.

New puzzle types have also been added. Now there are riddles which hint at items you must find in the house. However, as riddles, they do so in a variety of ways that never explicitly state the object’s name. Some of these riddles are pretty simple but others require serious consideration. Some were fun, and others were very un-fun. Overall, players should be prepared for a lot of anagram-based puzzles. Of course, AI puzzles are also aplenty as well as others. A few are even quite similar to puzzles in The 7th Guest, but easier.

Some of these main puzzles are incredibly difficult though. Unless you’re some sort of puzzle-solving savant, there are likely to be multiple times that giving up will seem like the best course of action. Sure, none of the puzzles are broken, but they sure like to frustrate! Thankfully, there is an option to receive hints as well as skip puzzles entirely like in the original game. The hints/skip are also now accessible from any room via a laptop. It’s convenient but you’ll still miss scenes if you cheat.

The 11th Hour Screenshot

It might seem like an oddball suggestion, but perhaps the best way to play The 11th Hour is with a friend or two. Some of these puzzles and riddles are easy to get stuck in which makes a second mind useful. In either case, if you can’t enjoy the puzzles in some regard then there’s little reason to play since that’s what the whole game is about! By having someone to play the game with it can keep frustrations minimized as well help the experience to be more enjoyable.

The 11th Hour is most definitely an improvement over The 7th Guest. There are now a variety of puzzle types to experience and only a few of them have anything to do with chess pieces! Unlike modern point and click adventures though, Trilobyte did not hold back making creative and confounding riddles and tests of player skill. Those without an appetite for straining their brain over and over again should probably skip past, but puzzle lovers will rightly find a good game here. It might be nearing 20 years old now, but The 11th Hour still packs a riddle-filled punch.


Score: 3.5

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


Review code provided
About our rating system – *Affiliate link

The 7th Guest Review

The 7th Guest Featured

The 7th Guest Boxart

Developer: Trilobyte Games
Publisher: Night Dive Studios – Contact
Platform: iOS, PC – Amazon, DotEmu, GamersGate, GOG*, Steam (Reviewed)

The 7th Guest was a game far ahead of its time when it launched in 1993. At the time, games were still commonly seen on floppy discs. Unlike them, The 7th Guest was a visual feat, meaning it could only release on CD. It became the “must have” title for many gamers although they would have to buy a brand new CD drive first! Times have certainly changed since then. No longer do we view full-motion video (FMV) games as impressive, but more of a silly footnote in history.

That’s why anyone with a real interest in gaming owes it to themselves to play The 7th Guest. Sure, it is hammy and weird but this was the beginning of a new era. Someone had to try and it just happened to be Trilobyte who did it! They crafted a simple story of six (with a 7th guest coming) people in a mansion. They’ve all been invited there by a strange, eccentric man who said he would grant one of their wishes. It’s certainly not the first time such a plot has been utilized – just look at the film House on Haunted Hill. But there’s more to it than that. There are dolls… and dying children. Spooky, indeed.

The 7th Guest Featured

The adventure title takes place entirely within the mansion. Your main task is to search it from top to bottom via a point and click interface. For the most part, you seek out puzzles and, upon successful completion, are shown a story scene. Puzzles range from simple to confusing, but most can be solved with determined clicking if you don’t know how to win. It is possible to use the open book in the library for hints and to complete a puzzle if you get stuck. However, this method keeps players from viewing the respective story scene afterward. If nothing else, use the book on a certain microscope puzzle. It’s way too much of an unfair time sink!

What exactly made The 7th Guest such a standout at the time? It certainly wasn’t being a point and click adventure title, since Sierra and others were pumping out those titles for years already. The big change was to pre-rendered CG backdrops and FMV actors. How more real can you get than actual film of people playing roles? You can’t! So this was a huge deal, alongside the then gorgeous environments free for you to explore. Even now, the mansion still looks pretty good. Of course, the live scenes were compressed heavily due to space constraints. Not only that, but they are superimposed into the game with a gross “halo” about them. It doesn’t stand up to the test of time.

The 7th Guest Screenshot

The same holds true for the acting, although it’s likely they were never going for a completely serious game. Viewing it today, there’s a distinctly ridiculous charm. The story makes sense and there are honestly a few creepy touches, even if they’re outweighed by an overacting cast. The music is also seriously dated but it has some goofy charm about it as well. Aside from the credits theme though, you won’t likely search out the soundtrack after playing.

Maybe it was because of the sheer novelty or because players were immersed into the world, but a sequel by the name of The 11th Hour came out two years later. As far as production values are concerned that is the better game, but nothing beats the enthusiasm present in The 7th Guest. No, it is hardly a technical tour de force today, and doesn’t even have really great puzzles, but it is definitely a noteworthy game worth experiencing at least once.


Score: 2

2 out of 5 alpacas


Review code provided
About our rating system – *Affiliate link

Legend of Kyrandia Book 3: Malcolm’s Revenge Review

The Legend of Kyrandia Book 3: Malcolm's Revenge Featured

The Legend of Kyrandia Book 3: Malcolm's Revenge Boxart

Developer: Westwood Studios
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform: PC – GOG*

Over the span of three years, Westwood Studios produced an adventure game trilogy titled The Legend of Kyrandia. The first game was a novel start, the second refined the formula, and then finally came the third title. The Legend of Kyrandia Book 3: Malcolm’s Revenge is meant to serve as the culmination of everything, but does it prove to be a fitting end?

Malcolm’s Revenge picks up primarily after the first game. Yes, there is a connection to it and the end of The Hand of Fate, but that’s so minimal it hardly counts. In any case, this time around you play as Malcolm. In the first game, he was the royal court jester who murdered the king! It’s likely no players really wanted to “see his side of the story” but that’s exactly what Malcolm’s Revenge revolves around. Players get a taste for Malcolm’s self-centered mindset but also see that he might not be completely horrible after all.

Each game coming from a different character’s perspective was basically expected though, as all previous games featured different protagonists. What is far less easy to swallow is the distinct shift in art direction and style. This seems due to the sudden discovery of fancy 3D graphics and polygons. Now there are CGI scenes interspersed throughout the game and backdrop elements from time to time. Most of these scenes look entirely ridiculous today. Even if they didn’t, it harms the charming pixel art that once seemed a hallmark of the Kyrandia name.

The Legend of Kyrandia Book 3: Malcolm's Revenge Featured

Even though most scenes do not employ CGI, the effort on those fronts must have taxed the art team. Pixellated backdrops don’t stand up in the least to Book 1 and 2. They’re uninspired, and at times even ugly. Because of this there’s no longer a way or reason to praise what had previously been very cool fairy tale visuals. At least we have the first two games to return to.

That’s not the only despicable part of the game, though. The worst offender is the writing which seems far less interesting than anything else the Kyrandia series has to offer. Despite being a court jester, Malcolm isn’t very funny. This is made worse by a laugh track that is prompted to play at completely inane moments. It’s rare that anything humorous ever happens to cue the laughter. It’s not even like Book 3 is meant to be a sitcom! On the plus side, the soundtrack is probably the best of the trilogy.

Malcolm’s Revenge is not a complete failure since the puzzles are still interesting, with only some aspects being annoyingly challenging. But when you compare it to the other two games it just feels like the least exciting one. If anything, most Kyrandia players would probably be best served by playing Book 1 and 2 and pretending this concluding volume never existed.


Score: 1.5

1 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


Review code provided
About our rating system – *Affiliate link

Legend of Kyrandia Book Two: The Hand of Fate Review

Legend of Kyrandia Book Two: The Hand of Fate

Legend of Kyrandia Book Two: The Hand of Fate Boxart

Developer: Westwood Studios
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform: PC – GOG*

Westwood Studios crated an interesting adventure series back in the 90s via The Legend of Kyrandia. Spanning three games, it drew in existing fans of the point and click genre as well as pulling in new players. New fans were forged thanks in part to the fanciful visuals and was mostly free of incomprehensible puzzles. For many, The Legend of Kyrandia Book Two: The Hand of Fate stands as the high point of the trilogy. I’m inclined to agree!

Book Two begins with narration from previous protagonist Brandon. Out of nowhere, it seems that the realm of Kyrandia is slowly disappearing! However, Brandon can’t do a thing about it. This time, alchemist Zanthia must save her beloved home from being zapped into complete nothingness. Zanthia is a far more resourceful and endearing protagonist than Brandon and provides witty banter along her journey. Weirdly, the developers seemed keen on the running gag of Zanthia requiring costume changes at multiple points. At least there’s no pixellated nudity to speak of, since she is able to conjure up new outfits immediately.

In comparison to Book One, Kyrandia is now a much vaster kingdom. You aren’t forced to go through screens that are 75% forest now. Instead, there are now multiple, very different looking regions to explore. Each is distinct and includes different characters to interact with and puzzles to solve. Overall though, Zanthia’s main puzzle mechanic remains the same throughout.

Legend of Kyrandia Book Two: The Hand of Fate

Players must flip through Zanthia’s spellbook/cookbook which allows her to conjure up various spells. So far as spells go it is pretty easy to know when you need to cast what. The issue lies with collecting all the ingredients necessary! Sometimes this can be tough, but usually you can find all ingredients with a little ingenuity. Players won’t have to worry about rifling through massive inventories either because Zanthia regularly empties her inventory when entering a new area, signifying the old objects are not needed from then on. Of course, sometimes you’ll still need to find new items to replace the old ones (such as flasks to hold the potions).

It seems Book Two is so loved because it improves The Legend of Kyrandia in the most important ways. The expanded world looks fanciful and creative, just as it should. With a simplified main puzzle mechanic it’s also easier to know how to resolve most problems. Finally, we have the heroic Zanthia who saves Kyrandia all the while still taking the time to laugh at the entire ridiculous predicament. As far as new fans are concerned, it also serves as an excellent starting point as it only has a slight connection to the first (and third) games.


Score: 3.5

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


Review code provided
About our rating system – *Affiliate link

Re-Volt Review

Re-Volt Featured

Re-Volt Boxart

Developer: Acclaim Studios Teesside
Publisher: Acclaim Entertainment, H2 Interactive
Platform: Android, Dreamcast, iOS, Nintendo 64, PC – GOG* (Reviewed), PlayStation 1

Over the years there have been copious amount of racing games across consoles and arcades. And yet, we’ve only rarely seen ones that put players in control of RC cars. The two biggest names to have done so are Re-Volt and the Micro Machines series, both of which have been absent from the most recent console generation. Unlike the latter, Re-Volt only ever got one game but it still managed to develop a following. It was important enough that fans even created a patch to make sure the game would continue to run on modern PCs. But is the game really that deserving of praise?

Despite having only just played this game from 1999 in 2013, it still manages to be a lot of fun. A large part of the fun comes from the fact that you’re racing RC cars. They look just like they should and are tiny against the stage. Instead of racing on well-known race tracks, these cars simply tear it up around the suburbs, market, museum, and the like. This helps Re-Volt have a very unique appearance against its contemporaries.

Cars themselves handle semi-finicky and are downright speedy. This precise control becomes more of an issue if you choose to play with a gamepad, unfortunately. If you encounter too much trouble racing with one then definitely shift to the keyboard. This was my issue because the controller made me over steer and lose races whereas the keyboard was far more manageable. Those who prefer can enable options to change the maximum speed of cars or how they react to crashes to make it an easier or harder racer.

Re-Volt Featured

If you like Mario Kart’s item system then you might even be more interested in this game. Items are scattered across the course and signified by lightning bolts. Once you drive over one, an item is revealed to you and ready for action. You can get bowling balls, oil slicks, firecrackers, and even bombs. It may be aping off an established concept but is utilized well. Thankfully, there are no blue shell analogues!

Even though Re-Volt is over 10 years old now it still looks lively and cute. Many early polygonal games look rough but it still looks just fine to me. This is helped in part by the fact that a fan patch (included with GOG copies) allows the game to run at modern resolutions and look great doing so. This is the main way in which the PC version shines over consoles since they’re locked at much smaller resolutions. In any case, it seems that the game would be wholly enjoyable however you access it.

Re-Volt is a pretty tough racer but it also has a lot of spirit. Check it out if you’re willing to lose your fair share of times before finally getting a hang of your favorite RC car. After racing a while, try your hand at designing some tracks or playing against a friend in multiplayer.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


Review code provided
About our rating system – *Affiliate link

Shadow Man Review

Shadow Man Featured

Shadow Man Boxart

Developer: Acclaim Studios Teesside
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Platform: Console – Dreamcast, Nintendo 64, PlayStation 1 PC – GOG*, Steam (Reviewed)

The 90s were an incredible era for comic books. We were seeing creative new heroes hitting stands and one of those new names was Shadow Man. Launched in 1992, there was a time when the Shadow Man series sold more than longtime favorites such as Batman! Of course, with such popularity, it was only a matter of time before a video game was produced. The first game, Shadow Man, came in 1999.

Read more »

I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream Review

I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream Featured

I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream Boxart

Developer: The Dreamers Guild
Publisher: Cyberdreams
Platform: PC – DOS, GOG*

During most of adventure gaming’s history there were many great titles released. The most popular tended to be from Lucas Arts and Sierra and often were comedic. Those looking for more “adult” fare were left with a much smaller library to choose from. I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, based on a short story by Harlan Ellison, attempted to push that envelope when it launched in 1995.

The game is certainly strange. It focuses on a supercomputer by the name of AM which grew in power enough to ultimately take over the world. Humanity is all but demolished aside from five different individuals who AM has decided to hold captive for over 100 years. They basically stand as AM’s playthings, and are tortured continuously in the most painful ways specific to their psyches.

As the game begins, you are tasked with playing a new “game” that AM has come up with. One by one, each of the five must enter into a simulated world which has to do with their lives. There they must relieve past nightmares and overcome them. While some characters perpetrated great evils upon the world, others were victims. In particular, the story of Ellen was especially worrisome due to the triggers it may set off in some people.

I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream Featured

It doesn’t appear that I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream commits any of the cardinal sins of adventure gaming but there are still some niggling issues. One is based around the control scheme which has players first select an action (look, use, talk, etc) and then click on an object. On a few occasions, there were times when an item had to be used in a way atypical from the rest. This was confusing and led to a lot of backtracking at times only to realize the simple error. Also, it feels a bit cumbersome to have to reach down to the functions and click them every time, but that’s thanks to changes in modern adventure games.

With those issues considered, it still isn’t a bad game. AM is one spiteful, cruel machine but it also has a weird sense of humor. The characters also stand as interesting when you uncover their lives through play. Backdrops, too, are incredibly well done. Adding in the voice acting, I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream is a really impressive adventure game overall which helps it overcome aged gameplay mechanics.


Score: 3.5

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


Review code provided
About our rating system – *Affiliate link

The Legend of Kyrandia Book One Review

The Legend of Kyrandia Featured

The Legend of Kyrandia Boxart

Developer: Westwood Studios
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform: PC – GOG*
Review code provided

It’s a shame we don’t see more adventure games in the modern era. Before FPSes and 3D landscapes became de rigueur for games, the adventure genre flourished. Here was a genre that gave players a view of vast creative, beautiful, or even disturbing landscapes that they were free to explore! Many classics came from that era. The Legend of Kyrandia series is not one of the well-known highlights from that time, but instead stands as a hidden gem.

In The Legend of Kyrandia Book One you begin your journey unexpectedly. Your grandfather has just been turned to stone by the power-hungry jester Malcolm. As a young man named Brandon, you seek to get your grandfather back to normal. Along the way, you come across multiple citizens who point you in the right direction, usually alongside new puzzles.

Puzzles are the make or break aspect for most modern gamers who try out adventure titles. Most modern ones feature easier puzzles or hints, but The Legend of Kyrandia is hint system free! A handful of puzzles require you to cycle through multiple attempts to figure out the proper solution. However, you can save at any point so it’s not very painful to retry puzzles. And unlike some games, you can never be stranded without a necessary item later on. No matter what, items will respawn if destroyed or you can backtrack to find them again.

The Legend of Kyrandia Featured

With that said, there are aspects of the game that are pretty hard to figure out without help. If you pick up the GOG release it comes with a PDF of the old Prima strategy guide. Although it doesn’t give you a point by point breakdown, it does showcase all solutions. It’s pretty handy, although many online guides exist too, such as this excellent one.

The game is not quite as fanciful as others of the time period, and it shows. For example, there are multiple areas to explore, but their forests are visually identical. Brandon even makes a remark about this. Funny as it may be, it doesn’t help the player to differentiate the landscape. Basically, you’ll need to create a map or use one someone else has drafted.

The Legend of Kyrandia Book One is a short and sweet adventure game with creative puzzles. When it comes right down to it, those are all the requirements needed to make an acceptable adventure game. It deserves some credit for never leaving a player without all required items, but isn’t quite as inspired as other titles. If you’re an adventure lover who has played all the big names but missed out on Kyrandia then go give it a shot!


Score: 2.5

2 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


About our rating system – *Affiliate link

Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse Review

Castle of Illusion Screenshot

Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse

Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega
Platform: Game Gear, Genesis (Reviewed), Master System, Sega Saturn

Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse is a game that many players have held dear for years. Recently, Sega went back and re-envisioned the title to be suitable for modern gaming platforms. Having never played the original before, I decided to give it a go before trying the remake. How does it stand up for someone who doesn’t get nostalgic recalling the title?

The people at Sega certainly tried hard to make something special with the licensed character of Mickey Mouse. Honestly, it seems like we haven’t seen as many excellent licensed titles since the era of SNES and Genesis. The world is bright and colorful and Mickey looks just as expected. Levels are imaginative and mesh with a Disney aesthetic.

It seems the game shouldn’t be that difficult, but it still ended up being somewhat tough for me. The primary offender was that Mickey has a weirdly heavy jump. He can get up pretty high in the air, but it sometimes felt that he wasn’t responding as accurately as he should have to my button commands. This could be due to the controller or aged game, though. Who can say? I do know the remake suffers its own lag but that was obviously not purposeful.

Castle of Illusion Screenshot

Aside from that, the platforming is interesting. A mechanic showcased in an early level even allows the map to be flipped upside down/right side up. It seems a bit ghastly, though, considering each flip causes the enemies to fall down and die immediately. Well, they disappear rather than die, but the implication is the same. Mickey himself never dies but instead is given a handful of “tries” before a final game over. Considering this is a game primarily targeted to children why couldn’t there have been infinite tries?

All things considered, Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse is a pretty good platformer. It has all the aspects you expect of one, such as  great music and attractive visuals. Still, those controls were problematic. And then aside from some neat concepts, the game doesn’t do much to make it stand out above the rest when it should. After all, this is a Mickey Mouse game!


Score: 2.5

2 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


About our rating system

Vida Review

Vida Featured

Vida Boxart

Developer: Interactive Girls Club
Publisher: Interactive Girls Club
Platform: PC (DOS)

Wow, what can I say about this game? First off, I’m not even sure if the name is “Vida” or “Interactive Girls Club: Vida” or what. We’re just going to rule under the good faith that this FMV game is titled Vida. And boy, if it isn’t the worst game I’ve played all year – old or new.

Read more »