Saturday, October 08, 2005

walk north, use stick, get geeky

Here's a geek-out confession for you guys -- I love freeware adventure games. Love them. When I was a kid, my parents would never buy us an Atari or Nintendo, but my dad would let us each pick one game each from this shareware floppy disk catalog he would get. Mine would always be text-based adventure games. No graphics, just lines of text and a blinking cursor. In case you aren't familiar with these, the basic format is that you are a character put somewhere that has to do something and/or find something. As you "walk" around the game (be it an island or a castle, or some haunted ruins), you make a map of where you have been so you can go back again. You type things like "walk west" or "look rock" or "take key" or "use stick" and most of the time you get a message like "I don't understand" or "You can't do that" but occassionally you get a "The stick has dislodged the emerald from the ancient statue. You have broken the spell and saved the day!" Sometimes you would get a little musical jingle at the end as a reward for all your work.

Of course, now one can download freeware games with awesome/awful graphics from all kinds of sources. In the point-and-click adventure game you can usually do a combination of looking, walking, talking, and picking up/using in worlds where every character makes bad jokes and strange objects are left lying around. You spend your time walking around and picking up everything that the game will let you get your hands on (and lots of time clicking around on the walls and any pixel that looks like it might be hairpin or something you'll need later). After you have a bunch of stuff and have been talking to people, it becomes clear (sometimes) that you have to use some of the stuff on some of the other stuff and then give it to the right person, or show the right object to the right guard to get into a new room. Oh it is exciting. There is also usually a really fun MIDI soundtrack.

So, in case you want to enter the addictive and entertaining world of point-and-click 2D adventure games, here are a few of my favorites:

The Treasure of Drunk Island is the most recent one I've played. This one took me a few hours to get through, and it has enough twists that I had to check the walkthrough a couple of times to move forward. The graphics are really goofy, and the dialogue is hilarious. Plus you get to walk around drunk island, which is fun.

5 Days a Stranger and 7 Days a Skeptic (from which the screenshot above is taken) are both done by the same game author and are two of the most challenging and creative games on my little list. They involve a more serious murder mystery and space mystery respectively, and unlike most of these other games, you want to save often because you can make a wrong move and die or totally mess up your game. Its actually pretty amazing how affecting these two games are (particuarly 7 Days...) considering the relatively low-fi graphics and music. Good writing and neat twists.

Out of Order is one of the most fun games of this type I've run into.

It takes quite a few hours to work your way through the game, there are multiple areas and puzzles to solve, the characters are funny without being overly annoying, and the solutions are clever and satisfying. Plus it has a really weird ending. Absolutely worth downloading and spending some time with.

Finally, there is the Reality on the Norm collective, a group effort of 50+ individual games (some short, some long, some challenging, some just silly) that build on each other using the same characters and locations. Anyone who wants to can design a game, add new characters, locations, or situations, and upload it to the site. They started back in 2001 and are still adding games to this day. Every game is entertaining, especially once you get into the characters -- they really do build on each other. I'm not quite geeky enough to get all of the old DOS programs to run on my XP operating system, but most of them work without a hitch. The fact that this exists makes me indescribably happy. I've played the first seven or eight games and enjoyed every one.

How could you not love these guys....

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