Top Ten 80’s-90’s Games!! (4# – 2#)

29 01 2008

4: GRIM FANDANGO (1998)

This was one of the first Lucasarts titles to ditch scumm for the new GrimE ™ engine, rendering backgrounds in 2D, while the main objects and characters are represented in 3D, and allows the player to move Manny with a keyboard, a joystick or a gamepad. The main character “Manny” must collect objects and talk to the various inhabitants of the Underworld to solve puzzles in order to progress in the game. Like most other LucasArts adventure games, the player cannot ever get in a “dead-end” situation that would prevent progress forward due to “death” (as it applies in the Underworld) or some other unfortunate incident.

The Afterlife consists of the souls of those that have passed away, appearing as skeleton-like figures, and demons that assist in the workings of the Afterlife. Many of the characters are Mexican and occasional Spanish words are interspersed into the English dialog, also known as Spanglish. (In a strange twist, however, one of the Latino characters, Toto Santos, speaks Hungarian.) Many of the characters often smoke, which follows a film noir tradition. The user manual observes that everyone who smokes in the game is dead: “Think about it.”

The story unfolds in four episodes, each set a year apart on the Day of the Dead, November 2. It is from this festival that much of the game’s imagery is drawn—most of the game’s characters look like skeletal calaca figures. Like these figures the characters are not skeletons but depictions of souls.

Manny Calavera is a departed soul, serving the Department of Death in the underworld city of El Marrow by selling travel tickets to the newly-dead: the virtuous win passage on the Number Nine train, which takes their souls to Mictlan in four minutes instead of the four-year spiritual journey that sinners must take. When Mercedes “Meche” Colomar is not allocated the “Double-N” ticket she deserves, Manny realises his colleague Domino and his boss Don have been stealing these from the rightful holders and selling them off to the wealthy for profit, “sprouting” all who get in their way (shooting them with “sproutella”-filled darts, causing agonising death-within-death, flowers growing out through the bone). He joins the Lost Souls Alliance (LSA), a revolutionary group led by the charismatic Salvador, and leaves for the city of Rubacava in search of Meche, his demon driver Glottis in tow. Manny’s investigations draw him into a tangled web of corruption, deceit, and murder.

The game combines this mythical underworld with 1930s Art Deco design motifs and a dark plot reminiscent of the film noir genre. The design and early plot are reminiscent of films such as Chinatown and Glengarry Glen Ross. Several scenes in Grim Fandango are directly inspired by such film noir as The Maltese Falcon, The Third Man, Key Largo, and most notably Casablanca: in the game’s second act, two characters are directly modeled after the roles played by Peter Lorre and Claude Rains in the film. Despite this, Tim Schafer stated that the true inspiration was drawn from films like Double Indemnity, in which a weak and undistinguished insurance salesman is involved in murder and intrigue……………AWESOME STUFF…. if you havn’t played this game buy it NOW!!!

3: HALF-LIFE λ (1998)

In Half-Life, players assume the role of Dr. Gordon Freeman, a recently MIT graduated theoretical physicist who must fight his way out of a secret underground research facility whose research and experiments into teleportation technology have gone wrong. On its release, critics hailed its overall presentation and numerous scripted sequences, and it won over 50 Game of the Year awards in 1998-99. Its gameplay influenced first-person shooters for years to come, and it has since been regarded as one of the greatest games of all time.

With over eight million copies sold since, Half-Life is the best-selling PC first-person shooter to date. The Half-Life franchise has seen over 15 million sales.

The game was also released for the PlayStation 2 on November 15, 2001. A Sega Dreamcast port was made, but was cancelled just two weeks before release. The fully-playable Dreamcast version has since been leaked onto the Internet.

Most of the game is set in a remote desert area of New Mexico in the Black Mesa Research Facility, a fictional complex that bears many similarities to both the Los Alamos National Laboratory and Area 51, during May or December (as seen on calendars in the game) of 200X, meaning it takes place sometime between the years 2000 and 2009. The game’s protagonist is the theoretical physicist Gordon Freeman, a survivor of an experiment that goes horribly wrong when an unexpected “resonance cascade” (a fictitious phenomenon; see also constructive interference and prompt critical) rips dimensional seams, devastating the facility. Aliens from another world—known as Xen—subsequently enter the facility through these dimensional seams (an event known as the “Black Mesa Incident”).

As Freeman tries to make his way out of the ruined facility to find help for the injured, he soon discovers that he is caught between two sides: the hostile aliens and the Hazardous Environment Combat Unit, a United States Marine Corps Special Forces division dispatched to cover up the incident by eliminating the aliens, as well as Dr. Freeman and the other surviving Black Mesa personnel. Throughout the game, a mysterious figure known (but not actually referred to in-game) as “G-Man” regularly appears, apparently monitoring Freeman’s progress. Ultimately, Freeman uses the co-operation of surviving scientists and security officers to work his way towards the mysterious “Lambda Complex” of Black Mesa (signified with the Greek “λ” character), where a team of survivors teleport him to the alien world Xen to kill the Nihilanth, the creature keeping Xen’s side of the dimensional rift open.

2: TREASURE ISLAND DIZZY (1987)

Treasure Island Dizzy is a computer puzzle game published in 1987 by Codemasters for the Amstrad, Commodore 64, Spectrum, DOS, NES, Amiga and Atari ST.

It was the second game in the Dizzy series, and is the sequel to Dizzy. The game was developed by the Oliver Twins with graphics being designed by Neil Adamson and music by David Whittaker.

This game is quite different to its predecessor, with a new inventory system and improved animations. The game notably contains fewer enemies than the previous with the game more centred around inventory based problem solving. The aim of the game is to solve various puzzles in order to obtain a boat so that Dizzy can return to his friends and family, the Yolkfolk. To do this Dizzy must journey through haunted mines, tree villages, as well as underwater. The game also features a subquest (albeit one essential to completing the game) in which thirty gold coins must be collected. Such subquests were found in many of the sequels.

Critics consider this one of the most difficult Dizzy games as the energy bar system of later titles was not yet implemented and Dizzy is provided with only one life—contrasting with five in the first game and three in Fantasy World Dizzy, the immediate sequel, and most subsequent titles. Also unique to this game, the player is unable to select any particular item from the inventory for use—Dizzy simply puts down whichever item is at the top of the list. If Dizzy is underwater, and the snorkel happens to be at the top of the inventory list, he will put the snorkel down when the player hits “enter”, and instantly die. Treasure Island Dizzy therefore requires more foresight and planning than the other games in the series.

Adding to the diffculty of the game was the fact that the player had two main tasks to complete; the escape from the islands, and the collection of the thirty coins. Indeed, upon escaping the final island, the Shopkeeper character appears and tells Dizzy that he cannot leave without finding all thirty coins. Given that a number of the coins were hidden behind scenery, this second task proved to be more difficult than the main game. Infamously, Commodore Format printed a “complete” solution and map which did not include the hidden coins, frustrating many a player.

Treasure Island Dizzy can be downloaded as a PC game from the Codemasters website!

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