Thursday, February 21, 2013

Sierra Adventure Games (Sierra)



For those of you who were old enough to play classic PC games during the 1980's, you probably have already played a fair amount of these classics.  While Sierra may not be around much these days, it's no doubt that for its time they helped revolutionize PC gaming as we know it today.


Sierra On-Line was founded in 1979 by Ken and Roberta Williams in Simi Valley, California.  Ken was already a programmer for IBM, and was using his Apple II at the time to create a Fortran complier for IBM.  During this time, Roberta was heavy into playing text based games, but was growing quickly dissatisfied with the lack of any visuals.  She knew that the graphic capabilities of the Apple II could be used to enhance the adventure gaming experience.  With the success in 1980 with their first game, Mission Asteroid, Sierra created a name for itself in the very young computer gaming world.

In 1983 the company was contacted by IBM for its new PCjr system.  IBM made Sierra an offer they simply couldn't refuse.  They would fund the game development, pay royalties, and also handle all advertising.  With a signed contract in hand, the history of Sierra's classic adventure gaming began...


KINGS QUEST


The King's Quest series chronicles the saga of the royal family of the Kingdom of Daventry.  The series expands itself across two generations of the family's history, and takes players to all sorts of locale across the lands such as Daventry, Kolyma, Llewdor, Tamir, Serenia, Eldritch, Etheria, Land of the Green Isles, Realm of the Dead, The Swamp, Dimension of Death, Underground Realm of the Gnomes, Barren Region, Frozen Reaches, Paradise Lost, and Realm of the Sun.

The first Kings Quest game was originally not released with the subtitle "Quest for the Crown," nor did this title appear on the title card in the game until a much later version.   It wouldn't be until the 5th release of the game in 1987 that the full title would be included, and even then it was only added to the box.

The original version of the game follows the adventures of Sir Grahame, who is called by King Edward to seek out three legendary treasures hidden throughout the land of Daventry.  If he succeeds in finding all three treasures, Edward has promised to make Grahame king of the land.

In later versions of the game, Grahame's name was changed to Graham.  Also, starting with the 4th release, the back story of Daventry's trouble was expanded on, giving players much more story.

The game utilized an AGI (Adventure Game Interpreter) engine, which utilized typed commands via the keyboard to interact with the game.  This would become the heart and soul for several of the iconic Sierra games of this era with its impressive, but limited color graphics.  In 1990 the graphics of the game were given an update to SCI (Sierra Creative Interpreter) which allowed for 16 colors.

Because the PCjr from IBM was a commercial flop, King's Quest didn't take off as Sierra had hoped.  Fortunately for the company Tandy Corporation released the Tandy 1000 later that same year, which allowed for IBM PC compatible games to be easily converted.  With this, King's Quest quickly became one of the most popular games for its time, selling more than half a million copies.  It was from this point on that Sierra changed its focus, and developed primarily for the PC platform.

King's Quest II: Romancing the Throne was released in 1985.  It utilized the same AGI engine as the first game, and continued the adventures of (the now) King Graham.

The magic mirror (which you obtain in the first game) shows Graham a beautiful woman who is being held captive by the evil Hagatha the Witch.  Graham is teleported to the world of Kolyma where he faces the challenges of finding three keys that will unlock the doors to the ivory tower in which she is being held.

A fun fact about the game is that the music and hint book were both done by Al Lowe, the creator of the future Sierra hit, Leisure Suit Larry.

Romancing the Throne was scheduled for a reboot in 1990 using the new SCI graphics, but due to the poor sales of Quest for the Crown, the project was cancelled.

Kings Quest III: To Heir is Human was released in 1986, and was the first Sierra game to be DOS-based instead of using a boot disk.  It was also the first to feature EGA and Hercules graphics.  A year later it was re-released with the new AGI V3 engine.

The story moves away from Daventry and King Graham to the land of Llewdor.  Gwydion is being held by the evil wizard Manannan.  The story quickly shifts from that of a captive slave to that of a quest to rescue a beautiful princess being held captive by a three headed dragon.  The story eventually reveals that Gwydion is the son of King Graham who was kidnapped at birth by Manannan.

In 1988, Kings Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella (twin sister of Gwdion) begins where the events of To Heir is Human ends.  King Graham has suffered a heart attack.  His daughter, Rosella, is contacted by the good fairy Genesta who teleports her to the land of Tamir where she hopes to find a magical fruit that can heal her father.

Along with needing to find the magical fruit, Rosella must also help Genesta get her magic talisman from the evil fairy Lolotte before she can be returned to Daventry, and help her father.

An interesting twist to the game is that there are two possible endings.  You can actually complete the game without finding the magical fruit, which leads to a very tragic ending, or you can complete all tasks, and return to save Graham.

Another unique twist is that there is a day and night sequence.  Only specific tasks can take place during the day, and likewise, only specific tasks can be done at night.  The game takes place in real time, and must be completed over a twenty-four hour period.

The game was initially released in AGI, and later in SCI0.  This was because the SCI technology was rather new, and Sierra wasn't sure of the reliability of the engine.  KQIV is also one of the first PC games to support a sound card.

1990 marked several changes in the Kings Quest series.  King's Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder was the first game in the series to sport the all new VGA (Video Graphics Array) graphics, as well as the all new point and click interface.  The game was later released with full voice over aspects and MIDI arranged music.

The game once again puts the player in the role of King Graham who is away from his castle when it is lifted to the sky by Mordack, brother of the evil wizard Manannan from King's Quest III.

The act is witnessed by Cedric, who brings Graham to the land of Serenia.  The entire story revolves around Graham trying to rescue his family, and returning his castle to the land of Daventry.

King's Quest V was later ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System, but several alteration had to be made in order to meet with Nintendo's family friendly guidelines.  Much of the violence had to be toned down as well as all of the religious and sexual themes.  An Atari ST version was scheduled for release, but cancelled shortly after the initial announcement.

King's Quest IV: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow, which was released in 1992 is critically acclaimed as the high point for the King's Quest franchise.  It was released with SCI1.1 graphics, and included full voice over acting for Prince Alexander by Robby Benson (Beast from Disney's Beauty and the Beast).  It was the last King's Quest game to be released on floppy discs.  A CD ROM version of the game was released in 1993 which included even more voice over acting.

The game opens showing Prince Alexander haunted by his memories of Princess Cassmia who he met at the end of King's Quest V.  The game takes him to several islands such as the Isle of the Crowns, the Isle of Wonder, the Isle of the Sacred Mountain, the Isle of the Beast, and several more hidden locations.  The game focuses around Alexander freeing Cassima from the evil vizier.

A significant aspect to the game is its multiple endings.  There is also an option part way through the game to pursue the short route or long route.  Depending on your choices determines the outcome.


In 1994 the King's Quest series took a major leap forward with the 7th installment, King's Quest VII: The Princeless Bride.  The game featured an animated style reminiscent to that of Disney animated films of the time.  It featured high resolution graphics utilizing the SCI2 engine as well as full voice over.

The game puts you in control of Queen Valanice as she desperately searches for her daughter Rosella in the land of Eldritch.  As the game progresses, you learn that the entire land is in danger of the evil sorceress Malicia.  An interesting aspect to the game is that it makes no reference to King Graham unless you have version 1.4 of the game.

A new feature to the series was the ability for certain section to pan from one side to the other as opposed to older entries that had the ability to only pan entire screens.  The game also featured multiple endings - a good, and a bad one.

The game was met with mixed reviews.  Several fans criticized it for its cartoony look, and also being too easy.  The game did away with its complex gaming style from prior entries, and focused more on simply clicking "hot spots" on the screen.  This did away with the majority of challenges that prior installments offered.  Many felt that it was more like watching a cartoon as opposed to playing a game.

King's Quest: Mask of Eternity was the last official game in the series from Sierra.  It was released in 1998, and faced several challenges from the starting gate.  The biggest problem was that while creator Roberta Williams was hard at work on the game, several of her managers felt that the game in progress wasn't very conservative.  They handed the project over to another group of game designers who quickly went to work on taking the story in a different direction, dropping most of the violence and religious aspects.  When that concept was cancelled, Williams reasserted her control, and quickly went back to work on finishing the game.  Despite this, the game was critically met with great reviews, specifically for the newly added RPG elements.

The game opens in Castle Daventry from the perspective of King Graham, but quickly changes to that of the new hero, Connor of Daventry - A peasant and knight.  The mask of eternity is destroyed by the evil hands of Lecerto, turning the majority of Daventry's people to stone, including King Graham.  Connor must restore the mask in order to restore Daventry to its former state.

With varying difficulties in combat (easy, normal, hard), this offered an opportunity for new players to accustom themselves with the fighting aspect, and presented a challenge to veterans at the same time.  This added replay value to those who were interested in the challenge of combating enemies on various difficulties.

Though a ninth King's Quest was announce, it was cancelled shortly after, and never put into production.  Only two renders of playable characters were ever leaked to the public.  Since then, fans have released their own versions of the original games as well as several retellings of the series.  See the last section of this post for further details on some of those versions.

SPACE QUEST

While we're fans of the King's Quest series, the series we're much more fond of is Mark Crowe and Scott Murphey's (also known as The Two Guys from Andromeda) Space Quest series which follows bumbling janitor/hero of the galaxy Roger Wilco.  From the start, the two knew they wanted to create a series that parodied such sci-fi classics as Star Wars and Star Trek, and also pop culture in general.  Wilco, who is consistently considered a loser among his fellow fleet members often times finds himself in the position of saving the galaxy - rather by accident of course, only to find himself being reprimanded for violating minor Starfleet regulations, or simply being ignored completely.

Space Quest: The Sarian Encounter was first released in 1986.  The game was an immediate success, and quickly sold over 100,000 copies.  The game was produced using the same AGI engine that was utilized for prior Sierra games, which helped the game to have a familiar gameplay mechanic to players.

An interesting tidbit about the game (and series as a whole) is that the hero's name was never intended to become known as Roger Wilco.  The reason this came to be was because the original game asked players to enter in their own character name at the start of the game.  Roger Wilco was inserted into this box as a default for people who simply wanted to press the enter key, and keep going.  However, as more and more people got their hands on the game, more and more characters became known as Roger Wilco.

The game starts as the starship Arcada falls under attack from aliens.  Roger, who is aboard as one of the ship's janitorial staff finds himself the only one left alive - mostly because he was hiding in a janitor's closet enjoy a nap.

After making his escape, he crash lands on the planet Kerona where he has to make his way through a desert to the town Ulence Flats, which has an interesting cantina, reminiscent of Star Wars.  When he overhears that the Sarian's were spotted in the Deltaur system, Roger heads out to deal with the aliens once and for all.

In the end his efforts are rewarded with eternal gratitude from the people of Xenon, who present him with a golden mop.  It's one of the only times, if not the only time, that Roger is given any credit for being a hero.

In 1991 the game was given a complete overhaul, utilizing the current SCI engine which upgraded the EGA graphics to VGA.  The game included the same point and click icons as utilized in Space Quest IV, which was released that same year, and even included an Easter Egg from the fourth game.  When leaving Ulence Flats, the time pod from the fourth installment appears - though there is a continuity issue with this as it doesn't appear in the same location.

In order to really understand the events that occurred in Space Quest II: Vohaul's Revenge, one would first need to read the included comic book with the game which fills in the events between the first and second installment.

The comic explains that despite Roger's new found fame on Xenon, his only real reward (if you could call it that) is a promotion to the one and only janitor on Orbital Station 4.  The comic also introduces Sludge Vohaul who is revealed to have been behind the Sarian attack on the ship Arcada from the first game.

When the game opens on Orbital Station 4, Roger is abducted by Vohaul's men, and taken to the planet Labion where he is to be imprisoned in the labor mines for life.  When the transport skiff crashes, Roger is left with no other option but to make his way through the lush and dangerous jungle planet.  He eventually reaches Sludge's asteroid base, where he destroys it, thwarting Vohaul's plan of destroying Xenon with millions of cloned insurance salesmen.  The game ends with Roger left floating through space in cryo sleep.

The sequel was met with mixed reviews from critics who felt that some of the puzzles were too difficult due to being hidden from the player.  Despite this, the game remains in the top ten of Sierra's all time best sellers.

Space Quest III: The Pirates of Pestulon was released in 1989 using a very early concept of the SCI engine.  The game was met with critical and fan success instantaneously.  Players quickly embraced the new typing interface which actually froze the game as a white box came up.  This meant that rushing was no longer an aspect, and players could take their time to post their commands.

Roger is found adrift in space by a garbage hauler which takes the ship in.  When the ship is brought in, the life support systems wake Roger from his sleep status.

He quickly sets out to leave the hauler by making repairs to the ship the Alluminum Mallard - A name clearly parodying Star Wars' Millennium Falcon.  Though his escape is easily done, he quickly finds himself being hunted down by the Arnold Schwarzeneggerisk android, Arnoid the Annihilator for not paying his bill for the whistle used in Space Quest II.

Crowe and Murphy introduce themselves to the series playing the Two Guys from Andromeda, who are discovered by Wilco when getting the high score in the arcade game Astro Chicken, which can be played at Monolith Burger.  He then sets out for Pestulon, a small moon of the volcanic planet Ortega to infiltrate the ScumSoft offices in an attempt to rescue the captive duo.

The Astro Chicken game can be a lot of fun to play it's not required to complete the game.  The controls can be rather annoying to several gamers as it plays much like the original arcade game Lunar Lander.  The objective is to land your chickens on a trampoline without being propelled back into the air.  This has to be done multiple times in order to obtain the high score on the machine, and see the hidden message.  Each game also costs a Buckazoid, the money system in the game, which is limited.  Saving and restoring often is recommended for those attempting to complete this sequence of the game.

Another fun tidbit of the game is that the soundtrack was composed by Supertramp drummer Bob Seibenberg (and all the kids say, "Who?").

A floppy disk version of Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers was initially released in 1991, but quickly followed up with a CD ROM version in 1992.  The CD ROM version was far superior to the original floppy disk version as it now included full speech support, with narration by Laugh-In announcer Gary Owens.  The game was one of the most expensive games at the time created by Sierra, costing over one million dollars.  This paid off in the end as the game sold more than its predecessors combined.

The game was the first Space Quest (with the exception of the remake for The Sarian Encounter) to utilize point and clicking, and do away with the keyboard.  The taste and smell icons were not used to complete any sections of the game, but instead were added as humor fodder for the narrator.

Several Easter Eggs are included in the game which allow Roger to travel to some of the planets from prior installments, though there is little to no interaction allowed.  Attempting to leave the time capsule in some of these areas can even result in death.

In this installment, Roger is chased through time by a virtual form of Sludge Vohaul who is attempting to kill him once and for all.  The chase takes Roger back to several prior installments from the series, as well as a hypothetical Space Quest X: Latex Babes of Estros.  While visiting a mall in this future world, Roger can also enjoy the arcade game Ms. Astro Chicken, a sequel of sorts to Astro Chicken, and a clear nod at the Ms. Pac Man franchise.

Its interesting to note that none of the gameplay actually takes place in Space Quest IV, but rather the other various "games" that you time travel to.  This is denoted by the name being displayed at the top of the screen in a white bar with your score.


Space Quest V: The Next Mutation was the first installment in the series to not be developed by the Two Guys from Andromeda.  Instead, it was a solo project for Mark Crowe who had recently relocated to Sierra's sister company Dynamix.  The game would also be the second Sierra game to be sponsored by a real world company, Sprint, who's logo appears several times in the game (Leisure Suit Larry V was the first).

The Next Mutation is unusual to the series as it doesn't stray to far from its main parody focal point of Star Trek.  Other references can be found to a handful of science fiction titles, but they are few and far between.  The main plot involves stopping the spread of a mutagen disease which is quickly making its way through the galaxy, but a few sub plots also emerge, adding a little more depth to the game.  However, before getting to this point, you must first complete several small story missions, one of which is becoming a Captain of your own ship.

While this game came about during the era of CD ROM based games, it was interesting that the series stepped backwards, and reverted to the use of floppy disks.  It wouldn't be until the game was released in a compilation collection that it was transferred to CD.

With Space Quest 6: Roger Wilco in the Spinal Fronties, the series started to see a decline in sales, as well as general interest.  It was 1995, and while your typical point and click adventure game was still widely popular, the PC industry as a whole was losing some of its ground to the vastly advancing home console.  Systems such as the N64 and Playstation were attracting more and more gamers with their far superior graphics, but most importantly because most PC owners simply didn't have a computer with the capabilities to play the games.
 
SQ6 was created using the new SCI12 - often referred to as the SCI32, which meant it incorporated 32 bit graphics into the game.  This allowed it to use Super VGA graphics with 256 colors, and a 640X480 resolution.  An interesting aspect is while Space Quest V was developed by Mark Crowe, this sixth was developed by his counterpart, Scott Murphy.  Also worth noting is that the game didn't use a roman numeral such as the prior installments did, but rather just went with a standard number "6".

This final installment in the Space Quest series finds Roger court marshaled, and stripped of his Captain status, demoted all the way back down to the position of Second Class janitor, and stationed on the SCS DeepShip 86.  Later in the game the entire crew is awarded with shore leave for a job well done, it is at this point that it is revealed that a very old woman, Sharpei is plotting the demise of Wilco.

The story never really seems to come together, nor does any of the character's motives.  It feels thrown together, and isn't a very satisfying conclusion to the series.  The latter is probably because the end ensures players that Roger will take his next mission soon, which to date has not happened.

Sierra attempted to revive the Space Quest series several times during 1997, and even announced Space Quest VII: The Return to Roman Numerals.  A trailer for the game was included in the Space Quest Collection which included all six games.  A final attempt was made in 1999 to revive the series, but was unfortunately turned down by management.  Little is known with regards to what the game would have been about.

In 2002 Escape Factory began work on a new Space Quest series that was intended for the Microsoft Xbox.  The project was cancelled in 2003.  This may have been a good thing as it was rumored that while Wilco would be a playable character that the story would actually revolve around a new character, and depart completely from prior Space Quest games.

LEISURE SUIT LARRY

For as much as we love Space Quest, we love Al Lowe's Leisure Suit Larry even more!  The series follows clueless Larry Laffer as he searches for a true love...And a little extra nookie on the side.  Despite everyone around him knowing, Laffer just doesn't seem to realize that he's a 40 some year old balding, dorky loser.  It is a true underdog story.  The series stands out in the Sierra catalog as being the only games they produced with strong sexual themes.

What's funny to note is that while the game was all but condemned by activist groups for its raunchy satire and sexual themes, the series doesn't actual reveal anything worth blushing about - Especially not by today's standards.  If the video game rating system existed in the 80's, Larry would have easily been slapped with an "M" or even the very rare "A" rating.  Today, it would probably be rated "T".

In 1987, Al Lowe collaborated with Space Quest creator Mark Crowe to design Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards.  Because of its themes, the game wasn't highly advertised, but still managed to become a sleeper hit among critics and gamers.

The first release was designed using the AGI engine, but was given a complete overhaul in 1991 with the release of the SCI version.  This in turn replaced the old typing interface with the new point and click option.

Players are given a two hour window to complete the game, at which point Larry commits suicide, resulting in a game over screen.  While one would think that two hours is not enough time to complete an entire game, it's actually very doable.  Thanks to sites such as Youtube, speed runs of the game can be found with players completing the adventure in just shy of 4 minutes.  Want to see?  Click "HERE"!  You can also remove the time limit by having relations with the lady of the night in the bar.  Just be sure to follow specific guidelines, or it leads to your death.

While we wish there was more to Larry to get excited about, the whole point of the game is to lose your Virginity.  Beyond that, there isn't a whole lot going on.  In fact, there's nothing more going on.

Leisure Suit Larry Goes Looking for Love (In All the Wrong Places) is the sequel to the first game - LL in the Land of the Lounge Lizards.  The game utilizes the older SCI engine, which replaces the standard text based inputs with the new white box text input which freezes the game, allowing players to take their time while typing in commands.

Looking for Love opens with Larry mowing the lawn of Eve, his final love interest from the first game.  As the player, you are lead to believe that this means the two stayed together as a couple.  However, when Eve pulls into the driveway, it is quickly discovered that she has little to no recollection of Larry, and insists he leave.

A distraught Larry ends up winning both the lottery and a cruise, and is whisked away on a new adventure.  Unknown to him, the KGB and a mad scientist make Larry their target when he stumbles into the possession of a secret microfilm.

Much like other Sierra games, cross references to other adventure games make appearances.  The most notable one is the appearance of Rosella of Daventry, the protagonist of Kings Quest IV, who Larry meets by chance.

In the final sequences of the game, we're introduced to Patti who is featured prominently in Leisure Suit Larry three and five as Passionate Patti.

Which brings us to Leisure Suit Larry 3: Passionate Patti in Pursuit of the Pulsating Pectorals.  The game was developed using the SCI0 engine, and incorporated in a much larger repertoire of MIDI music.

Nontoonyt Island, the ending setting of the prior installment has been revamped from its tropical setting, and now sports a major resort.  Larry is now divorced, and resuming his old ways of seeking out female affection.  However, you also assume the role of the second playable character in the game, Passionate Patti herself as she seeks out her own love.  Patti's portion of the game is more reminiscent of prior Sierra adventure games which require you to find your way through mazes, and also solve puzzles to advance.

The game comes to an interesting conclusion as Larry and patti are reunited, and have to find a way out of the captive hands of lesbian cannibals.  With the use of a magic marker, the duo find themselves in Sierra's Coarsegold, California headquarters where they have to make their way through the set pieces of various prior Sierra games.  In the end they meet Roberta Williams herself, and are offered a job.  Its a strange twist of fates that players definitely didn't see coming.

On to Leisure Suit Larry 4: The Missing Floppies....And, we're done.  The game doesn't exist.  Sierra initially intended on releasing a fourth game that was to be played over the online services server, but due to technical difficulties, the planned multiplayer game was shelved.

Al Lowe has also stated several times that Leisure Suit Larry 3 had a very definite ending that didn't leave much room for direction to take the characters in.  When it came time to continue the story, Lowe was at a dead end for how to start where the third had left off, so he chose the only natural solution - He skipped it and moved on to part 5.

Much like the other Sierra series of games, with the SCI engine came the removal of the typed command based games, which was replaced with point and click options.  Leisure Suit Larry 5: Passionate Patti Does A Little Undercover Work was the first in the series to use this new style of play.

The title expanded the multi-character aspect introduced in the third installment by including more segments that rotated back and forth between Larry and Patti.  What was disappointing was that with this the challenge seemed to be ripped from the game.  Because you are constantly switching back and forth, the game was designed so that neither character could become trapped, or die.  This made collecting the majority of the items optional, and rather pointless.

What is fun about the game is that the absence of the fourth installment sets the basis for the story.  Julius Biggs has stolen the floppies for the fourth game, and with it Larry has become an amnesiac.

With Larry now in a new career in the adult industry, and Patti an FBI agent the story intertwines between the two of them as they set out for their own missions.  Larry's - to find new girls for his films.  Patti's - to dig up incriminating evidence on two music companies being accused of adding subliminal messages to their records.

Our personal opinion is that it is one of the weakest links in the Larry chain, but yet in a way it was a good thing because it led to Patti being retconned out of the series, bringing Larry back to his roots...

...In Leisure Suit Larry 6: Shape Up or Slip Out!

Larry returns to the roll of seeking out one night stands with various women when he wins a trip to a luxurious health spa.  Also rekindled in the 6th installment (okay, 5th) is that you can once again die, bringing back the challenge for players that they missed out on in the prior adventure.

Larry 6 was initially released as a DOS game on floppies, but was quickly re-released the following year on a CD ROM.  The CD version brought with it voice acting, a first for the series, and enhanced graphics.  Both versions utilized the point and click aspect of the SCI engine.

Larry's last PC based Sierra outing was for the game Leisure Suit Larry: Love for Sail!  It was the first game in the series to fall under the ESRB rating system, and was given an "M" rating for the over the top risqué elements.  It also featured a more fleshed out cartoonish look to it, and full voice acting.

It was the first game since the third installment to pick up right where its predecessor left off.  We pick up with Larry being dumped by Shamara, his final love interest in Shape Up or Slip Out!  Larry sets sail on a cruise where his goal is to win a weekly contest held by Captain Thygh.  To do this you must win several small mini games, or rather, find a way to cheat at each mini game to ensure you have the highest score in each contest.  Much like LL5, the game cannot be put into an unwinnable state.

An eight game was in full production in 1998 entitled Leisure Suit Larry: Lust in Space, but was cancelled when funding was cut.  In 2009 Sierra's Adventure Game department was disbanded, and Al Lowe left the company.

Speaking of Al Lowe, he has been quoted as saying that Sierra unknowingly created share ware with their games.  When asked how he knows this, he responds with, "Because we sold more hint books than we did copies of games."  Because the majority of the older Sierra games didn't rely on codes or other forms of inputs to enter into the actual game, people were making copies of the disks, and handing them out to just about everyone they knew.  It's because of this that later Sierra titles required the manual, and relied heavily on answering a specific question from a specific page to gain access.  The questions were random, and very seldom would you get asked the same one twice.

Since his final Sierra days, Larry has seen new life on the original Xbox (Magna Cum Laude), as well as the Xbox 360 (Box Office Bust).  Unfortunately the games themselves haven't lived up to the success of the original adventures of the old leisure suit wearing loser.  In fact, they've been considered some of the worst games out there.

POLICE QUEST

We were never big fans of Jim Wall's Police Quest series, but even so, they're is no denying that the series hit it big with fans.  While the play mechanics were the same as your average Sierra adventure game (for the first four games anyway), what set Police Quest aside was the in depth nature it took player into the role of an actual police officer.  When pulling suspects over, or booking them in prison, you had to refer to the manual for the specific arrest or ticket code.  Input the wrong one, and you fail at making your arrest or accessing a ticket.

In Pursuit of the Death Angle was released in 1987 utilizing Sierra's already established AGI engine.  The game spawned two direct sequels, and in 1992 was updated using the SCI engine for a much cleaner gamer which replaced the typed command with point and click options.

The game lacked in your traditional sense of Sierra style puzzles, and actually fell under a lot of criticism for depicting police work as dry and boring.  It was also rather difficult for many players because the game demanded that you adhere to standard rules and procedures of actual police officers.  A perfect example of this is when booking prisoners you must first store your firearm in a gun locker.  Failure to do so will result in the criminal taking your weapon from you and killing you.

The game takes place of the course of several days, and for the most part has you issuing traffic tickets, taking police reports, and other fairly bland play elements.  All of this of course leads to the eventual promotion of Officer Sonny Bonds to Detective, where he is put on his first undercover case to take down the Death Angel - A drug dealer named Jessie Bains.

The game was boasted as one of the most realistic games produced by Sierra in the late 80's, but unfortunately was also dubbed the least enjoyable by casual adventure game players.

Still, the game was popular enough to spawn a second game in 1988 entitled The Vengeance.  Utilizing the new SCI0 engine, the game was far more enjoyable, and much better visually than the prior installment.  Though you still typed your commands in, the SCI0 engine brought up the white box which froze the game, allowing players all the time they needed to actually think through scenarios.

Bond's has once again been promoted, this time to the homicide division.  His career is well on track, as is his personal life as he starts dating Marie Wilkins who helped him in tracking down the Death Angel from the first game in exchange for the dismissal of prostitution charges.  Unfortunately his life is quickly turned upside down when Bains escapes prison while in route via a patrol car to a retrial hearing.  Vowing vengeance on Bonds, Bains kidnaps Maria.

Though the game ends in a shootout, depending on who shot first will depend on which one of the two possible endings you will get.  If Bains shoots first the jury will determine that Bonds acted in self defense.  If Sonny shoots first he is repromanded for violating the law, and acting in a reckless manner.

The game was widely received by critics who consider it to be the highlight of the series.  It combined just the right amount of puzzles, humor, and what many consider to be an excellent story.

Police Quest 3: The Kindred was released in 1991 utilizing the newly updated point and click version of the SCI engine.  One of the aspects which was addressed in this release was the horrible driving aspects from the first installment.  The Kindred updated these elements, which simplified and streamlined it.

The game also implemented a copy right protection by way of requiring the player to input a five diget code from the manual when booking arrested suspects.  As mention above, Al Lowe had stated that Sierra unintentionally created shareware by making it so that their disks could be copied and handed out.  Sierra began utilizing the manuals to help stop this.  Games would require players to either input codes such as in The Kindred, or reference specific words or symbols at the start of the game just to be able to play.

Sonny is moving through the ranks quickly at the Lytton Police Department.  He's now a Sergeant.  The town has also expanded itself into a full-fledged city.  With the increase in size, so too has increased the crime rate.

Marie and Sonny are now married, but their happiness is short lived.  Micahel Bains, the brother of Jessie Bains - AKA the Death Angel, wants revenge on Bonds for killing his brother.  If that weren't bad enough, he also has to deal with a cult group that has risen, and a corrupt partner at his side.

Though the game was critically acclaimed for its graphics and realism, fans and critics really disliked the game as a whole.  It received poor reviews at best, and was faulted for its excessive load times when changing screens.

An interesting tidbit is that prior to the game's release, Jim Walls left Sierra.  To date those reasons are unknown by the general public, and probably contributed a lot to the failure of the game.

The series was revisited in 1993 under the watchful eye of Daryl F. Gates.  Rather than continue the story of Sonny Bonds, Gates introduced officer John Carey as the leading role.  The series also doesn't include the number "4" anywhere on the box or in the game.  This helped distinguish it as a new series, while at the same time was inviting to fans of prior Police Quest games.  The game was simply titled, Police Quest: Open Season.

The game featured several more changes from prior games.  For instance, the story was moved from Lytton, and instead took place in a real world Los Angeles.  The majority of screens used were comprised of actual photographs of the Los Angeles area.  The game also featured voice over narration on the CD ROM version, which replaced the text based narration from the floppy disk version.

The games gritty realism greatly depicts the gory life of a homicide detective.  This in turn made some scenarios down-right gruesome to investigate.  A perfect example of this is the body of an eight year old boy found in a dumpster at the start of the game.

The story involves Carey tracking down a mass murderer, which takes elements from several books, such as Silence of the Lambs.  As a whole the story pays off well, but is very difficult to complete due to the in depth police procedures that must be followed to pass the majority of scenarios.

Two nods to Jim Wall's trilogy can be found in the game.  The first is that the name of the police server is called, "SONNY".  The second is only in the CD ROM version of the game.  In the Short Stop Bar the two arcade machines have high scores held by Sonny Bonds.


The fifth game in the Police Quest series is also the first game in what would become the SWAT series.  This 1995 released game removes itself almost completely from the world of adventure gaming in favor of a fully interactive motion video game.  Much like most FMVG's (Full Motion Video Games) of this era, the game was met with extremely poor reviews.

Because it doesn't technically fall into the genre of adventure gaming - though some elements do exist, we've included this here as more of a nod of acknowledgement that the Police Quest series did technically continue after the forth installment, Open Season.  The game was also still developed by Open Season's Daryl F. Gates.  It would be his last Police Quest entry.

Game designer Susan Frischer produced a second SWAT game which was released under the Police Quest banner in 1998.  Rather than repeat its mistakes from the first SWAT installment, the second favored a more real time strategy play style, which completely removed it from the genre of adventure gaming.  Though the series would spawn two more sequels, the Police Quest banner was removed completely for these 3rd and 4th installments, officially making SWAT its own series.

To date there have been no new Police Quest games.  Because the series went on to become SWAT, there were also no titles in the works that were cancelled.

QUEST FOR GLORY
(Hero's Quest)

So, you want to be hero?  Then join the hero's quest!  We really enjoyed the first Hero's Qust game (which would later become Quest for Glory), and sadly never got the chance to play the remaining installments until just recently.  Despite their age, they still stand as true classics in adventure gaming.

Hero's Quest: So You Want to Be A Hero was released in 1989, and quickly gathered a following.  Unfortunately for Sierra, someone goofed big time, and the title was never trademarked.  When Milton Bradley later released the game HeroQuest, Sierra was forced to change the title of the game - Thus Quest for Glory became the series official title.

The series made its debut in 1989 from designer Lori Ann Cole, and utilized the SCI0 engine.  This meant that right off the bat the game contained a fan favorite white box which froze the game while players input their typed commands.  In 1992 the game was given a makeover with the SCI1 engine which replaced this with the standard point and click aspect later Sierra releases.  It also gave Sierra the opportunity to remove the Hero's Quest title from the game, and replace it with the Quest for Glory banner, thus falling in line with the remainder of the series. 

Each installment gave players a very unique choice by allowing them to select the type of character they wanted to be.  The options were Fighter, Magic User or Thief.  sequels also offered players the option of importing their character from a prior game as a way of rewarding loyal fans.  Another nice added bit was the RPG elements that allowed your character to increase stats via experience points.  This can make your character all but invincible very early on in the game, especially if you commit the very brief amount of time it takes to do so.

Baba Yaga has cursed the valley surrounding the town of Spielbrug as well as its baron.  His children have disappeared, and the land has been ravaged by monsters and brigands.  A hero is desperately needed to bring piece back to the land.  The question remains - Will you answer the call?

While you can complete the game without finishing all the tasks involved, these "side quests" set the basis for its sequel, and also ensure that you maximize your points.  Because each character type plays differently, no one task is necessarily achieved in the same manner.  There are also some tasks that only certain character types can complete.  For example, only the thief can break into houses and join the thieves guild, only magicians can play the magic game with the wizard, and only fighters can practice fighting in the castle courtyard.  These aspects offer a great amount of replay to the game.

Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire was released in 1990.  This new installment offers several more challenges.  The most obnoxious one is the specific in game time frame in which certain things have to be completed, and when they are even available to do.  The game also allows players to advance the status of their character by performing certain side quests.  A perfect example of this is how your magic user can advance to the status of wizard.  All characters can reach the status of Paladin if they conduct themselves in an honorable manner throughout the entire game.

The setting moves from Spielburg to the land of Shapier in the world of Gloriana.  This essentially allows the game to open directly where the first ended.  The city is threatened by magical elementals, while the Emir Arus al-Din of Shapeir's sister city Raseir is missing and his city fallen under tyranny.  You must defeat all four elements, and then bring the end to the evil wizard Ad Avis all within a 30 day timer.

Trial by Fire is the only game in the series not to advance beyond its EGA graphics, though it has been remade recently by an authorized third party company with spectacular new visuals.

The third installment, Quest for Glory III: Wages of War was initially intended to be a direct sequel of the third game with the title Shadows of Darkness.  However, this idea was abandoned when Sierra determined that doing a direct sequel would possibly cost them new fans of the series that wouldn't play because they had missed out on the prior adventures.

Instead of bringing back the evil Ad Avis as hinted at during the ending of the second game, our hero instead travels to the town of Tarna in the country called Fricana.  Tarna is on the brink of war; the Simbani, the tribe of Uhura, are ready to do battle with the Leopardmen.  Each group is angry with each other as they have each stolen a sacred relic from each other.  Neither will return the relics to each other as they each insist the other do so first.  The hero must find a way to bring the two tribes together for there is a much greater danger looming which will bring about the end of both tribes if they don't work together.

If you reached the status of Paladin in the prior installment, this hidden class becomes available to you upon importing your character to the game.  In addition, you can import a character that hasn't reached the status of Paladin, and still play us such, while creating a new cross class character.  If you don't import any characters, the Paladin class is not available to use.

While the fighter and mage (and Paladin) can be very useful characters in the game, the lack of utilization of the thief and his skills leave him far under developed.  The game also relies heavily on combat, which can often times leave this character running from fights, or worse, dead.

Due to a programing error it is impossible to get all the points in the game.  Before the birth of the internet, and the lack of readily available hint guides, this aspect has caused many a past gamer to grow frustrated with this particular title - Especially if they are completists.

Shadows of Darkness dropped the numeric numbering of the series, and was initially planned for a 1994 release on CD ROM.  However, many computer owners didn't own the expensive CD ROM technology during this time, and the game was advanced released in 1993 on floppy disk.  It would later be re-released on CD ROM.  The floppy disk version is considered inferior by fans of the series who favor the CD version with its increased graphics, sounds effects and other added content.

Unexplainably the game opens with the hero arriving at the Dark One's Cave in the distant land of Mordavia.  He has no items, no gear, and is no condition to do anything other than escape.  The game brings back Ad Avis, as well as Baba Yaga as foes, and in addition puts the hero against an even darker foe.  The game features much darker overtones to it, while at the same time keeps its traditional humor intact.  It's a nice mix of fun and fright.

Much like prior installments you can import your character, or simply start from one of the three class options.

The final installment in the Quest for Glory series was Quest for Glory V: Dragon Fire.  Right off the bat you'll notice that the game returns to its Roman numeral numbering system.  Because of deadlines and ever increasing financial issues, several key elements were discarded - Such as the ability to use a bow.  While prior installments are most definitely adventure games that incorporate role playing aspects, Dragon Fire was most certainly an RPG that incorporated adventure aspects.

In the story, Erasmus introduces the hero to the kingdom of Silmaria.  Their ruler has been assassinated, and the traditional Rites of Rulership are due to commence, and the victor will be crowned king.  Naturally the hero wants to be king, and enters the competition.  As the competition unfolds several of the contestants are assassinated.  It eventually becomes your task to not only track down the killer, but also deal with a dragon that has been unleashed.

The Quest for Glory series wraps up nicely, with no further titles planned for future releases, thus completing the hero's quest.
HONORABLE MENTION

While it never spawned any sequels, and is often times forgotten by fans of adventure games, Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist is a game that no true adventure game player should miss.  It was designed by Leisure Suit Larry's own father, Al Lowe, and takes you on an adventure as a simple pharmacist who is forced to return to his old gun slinging ways.  But it's not all gun shots and whisky.  You'll spend a fair amount of time actually being a pharmacist as you mix up potions and concoctions to help sooth ailing town members.

You'll find classic Sierra humor from start to finish in this game, all while utilizing the all too familiar point and click aspects of the 1990's Sierra style.  If you enjoyed any of the titles above, and if you (hopefully) still do, then this is one title to not miss!

IN CLOSING

These are some fun (we would never say "were" because we still love them), classic games right here.  Yes, it is true that some of the games can be rendered impossible to finish (or unwinnable), which means you have to really plan out your adventure.  These were sometimes design flaws, but usually were put in intentionally by the designers.  The game will continue as if nothing has happened, but you will soon find yourself at a dead end.  Designers felt this increased the difficulty of the game, and thus added a replay value.  The best policy to have with any Sierra game is SAVE OFTEN, and name your saves as geographical locations rather than generic titles.  It's also best to save prior to doing anything should you need to come back and do things differently.  The best explanation we've found regarding unwinnable games can be found at Giant Bomb by clicking "HERE".

Over the years the games have been collected into volumes, and re-released for the various Windows operating systems.  Unfortunately, it is frequently reported that certain areas of some of the games are riddled with bugs due to not being able to run properly on high end systems.  One of the biggest complaints is that due to the increased speed for the game some of the puzzles are rendered un-passable.

In addition, several remakes of some of the titles have been produced over the years by various other game developers.  Some of the more notable ones are AGD Interactive's King's Quest I, II and III, as well as their remake of Quest for Glory II: Trial By Fire.  They are available to download for free "HERE".

Infamous Adventures produced a remake of Space Quest II: Vohaul's Revenge which can be downloaded for free "HERE".

Finally, the entire Leisure Suit Larry series is coming to PC's everywhere starting with a complete overhaul of the first game, Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards from Replay Games who acquired the rights in 2012.  Legendary game designer and creator Al Lowe has been personally involved in the series in an effort to ensure the best possible game.  Although the Kickstarter pledge has ceased, the company is still offering gamers the opportunity to purchase the game by clicking "HERE".  Sorry, this one's not free.

Join us next time when we take a look at The Dukes of Hazzard!

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5 comments:

  1. Nice article! Couple quick corrections - Space Quest was by Scott Murphy and Mark Crowe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for catching that. We will make the correction.

      Delete
  2. Part of the problem with Evolution -- aside from the fact that it isn't really very funny -- is that it's mostly jaded; there's very little gee-whiz, almost no awe.

    ReplyDelete

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