I was awoken last week (yeah, this took that long to write) by the news that Disney have officially closed down LucasArts. 150 employees losing their jobs in that market and profession is rough, and I and I’m sure pretty much everyone else who has been following this story hope they all find lucrative employment soon. But as important as that and its consequences are, I’m not equipped to talk about it.
For me, the closure is sad outside of the above for reasons of nostalgia more than anything else. The LucasArts I (and many others) remember is from their glory days of the ’90s and the Renaissance of Adventure Games they ushered in. That LucasArts hasn’t existed for a very long time, despite the amazing faith that some of us had that they might one day be great again. It’s a weird mirror of when Sierra was formally shut down in 2008. I was never as much of a huge fan for the Sierra games, but friends of mine were; they’d cut their teeth on the Quest for Glory games, so I sympathised when their favourite gaming studio closed down. The situation is reversed for me today.
LucasArts made me the gamer I am today. The impact the company had on how I perceive and interact with this hobby is enormous. Because of them, I am an adventure gamer and a space jockey. Sadly, both those genres have had their glory days too, but there’s still some folk out there keeping them alive and making some fascinating innovations as well.
With this entry I’m going to look at the LucasArts games I played; and a couple of the ones I should’ve played; in release order but not my play order, as my memory’s not good enough to pin that down exactly. Don’t expect a lot of insight here, these are just the nostalgic ramblings of a sad old gamer today.
1987 – Maniac Mansion
Back when they were still Lucasfilm Games, this is where what I consider adventure gaming really began. I first played this not long after it came out, but I really remember playing this one on my cousin’s Amiga in the early ’90s. I remember it being a weird port; the mansion had a massive security door to access the upper levels; if you didn’t type in the right copy protection code, the mansion would explode after a time limit. Unfortunately we didn’t know what the code was despite it being a legitimate copy, so we blew up a lot.
I loved that they included this as a game within a game as part of the meta fiction of Day of the Tentacle. That’s actually how I replayed and completed this game. A crazy fun time with some features that wouldn’t be seen again for a very long time, if ever.
1989 – Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade – The Adventure Game
Not quite where it all began for me, but this was the second adventure game I have strong memories of. It was a surprisingly well told adaptation of the third Indy film, with some devilish puzzles and forethought needed to advance. I mean, you had to look up how to fly a bi-plane in the library in Venice so you could escape the Nazis later! Hell, I even still have my old notes…
I played this one again in 2009 when it was re-released on Steam, and it was still fun. And in keeping with a later tradition, I even wore my Indy hat whilst playing it.
January 1990 – Loom
While released in ’90, the full “talkie” release didn’t come out until ’92, and that’s the definitive version of this beautiful game. I didn’t play it until 2003 after I managed to get a copy of the talkie version from an ex-girlfriend. There’s a re-release on Steam for this one as well, and I strongly recommend you pick it up.
Cos I’m lazy, I dug back into the archives and found my original notes on the game from a decade younger version of myself. My thoughts haven’t changed too much, really…
…this evening I finished an old classic adventure game called LOOM. Now this is a beautiful game, but the ending is far from a happy one. In fact, it’s a pyrrhic victory for the unlikely hero Bobbin and his allies, as the world is literally split asunder, with Chaos gaining control of one half, and Bobbin managing to keep the other half protected from her. Now admittedly Bobbin stopped Chaos from securing the device that would have given her total domination over the world, but he’s also condemned those he couldn’t save to short, miserable and nightmarish lives. Even Chaos was surprised he actually did it. Though perhaps the creators of the game were hopeful of a sequel, as Chaos’ taunts of, “We will meet again!” follow Bobbin as he transcends the physical plane to join his brethren.
Now this was a ballsy ending to this cute little fantasy adventure game, and when I watched it I was shocked. I mean Bobbin, good, sweet-natured Bobbin sacrificed half the fucking world to halt Chaos and her Army of the Dead. Desperate plan, and it worked, but it made me realise that I have gotten used to happy endings! Now I ask myself, when the smeg did this happen?? Now whilst Hollywood has been trying to cram this whole “Happy Endings Do Happen” stuff down my throat for years, and I am generally an optimist, I’m also enough of a realist to know that life is painful some of the time. Hard decisions do need to be made and they do require sacrifices.
Hmmm…maybe I just didn’t expect such an ending from such a gorgeous game. Damn you, Moriarty!! (Brian Moriarty, game creator).
But I’ll be honest; this is what my friends and I really remember most about Loom:
October 1990 – The Secret of Monkey Island
Now, this. This is where it all began for me. The game that started me on the path of being an adventure gamer. Hell, the game that made me a gamer. I wouldn’t still be playing if it wasn’t for this game, and I’m a fan of Ron Gilbert’s for life cos of this. Hell, I started following Gilbert and Tim Schafer on Twitter when they started live tweeting a play through of the Special Edition back in 2009.
Sure, parts of it haven’t aged well, and there’s some strange design choices, but this thing is still funny, with a neat story and great characters that endure to this day. This is still the first major influence that made me want to be a pirate (the second naturally being The Princess Bride). If for some reason you still haven’t played this, check out the Special Edition on pretty much any modern platform you can think of.
1991 – Monkey Island 2 – LeChuck’s Revenge
Some would say this is more of the same. I’d argue this is something greater. The definitive takes on these characters. One of the best implementations of interactive music in a video game. And that ending. I truly wonder if Gilbert knows what he would’ve done next, but I still hope to find out one day.
There’s some great puzzles here, and I remember this game being one of the first to have difficulty levels in an adventure game. I can’t remember if subsequent versions and ports of this kept that feature, but I remember thinking it was pretty innovative at the time.
And did this rip off the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, or did the films rip this off. Seeing Captain Jack Sparrow rowing away in a coffin always makes me wonder…
Again, check out the Special Edition if you haven’t or somehow haven’t played this one at all.
1992 – Indiana Jones and The Fate of Atlantis
An Indiana Jones game not based off any existing material? 12-year-old me thought that was madness. I’m glad he was wrong.
Starting with the Drew Struzan inspired box artwork by William Eaken, Hal Barwood and his team got this game right from the ground up with an original story that felt right, worthy and contemptible villains, a great female lead in psychic Sophia Hapgood and a fantastic MacGuffin in the Lost City of Atlantis. The puzzles were great too, with three streams of gameplay making replayability a must. Probably the best Indiana Jones video game ever made, it may be naive but it’s a pity we got Kingdom of the Crystal Skull instead of this as the post Crusade film.