"teh basement cat iz in ur screen, stealin' ur blogz..."

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Up, down, left, right A + Start

We often hear that those of advanced years (old-folk, to you and I) reminisce about the past. Things were better back then, we respected our elders. Cars were made to last, and they knew how to mix a proper bloody martini.

All of it is bollocks of course, the past isn't just viewed with 20-20 vision, it's viewed through a lovely pair of prescription sunglasses with rose-tinted lenses and sparkly glitter on the rims. We all wax nostalgic. Past times are an untouchable refuge from all the things in the present that we don't like or approve of. Back in the day you boys would have been shot for touching each other like that. Really? Well make mine a shot of tequila, thanks.

Our obsession for our younger years is why NOW! compilations from the 60s/70s/80s/90s/00s (delete as appropriate) sell so well. Or used to back in the day when people actually went to a shop to buy music. Ahh, those were the days, when you actually got some service rather than all this one-click-buy nonsense... wait... now... where was I?

It seems a little ironic that many of the people who obsess over the latest iPhone and digital widgets are often the same people who obsess over their childhood music, television and games. For all the latest gadgets and zhuzhy graphics in the latest computer games, we all remember the first ones we played. Often they are enshrined above all others not for their amazing looks, but for the core upon which they were built in lieu of pretty graphics - wit, storyline, or insane object puzzles. Ehm... sorry, as Rincewind once said: Clever lateral thinking exercises. And you needed to play Discworld 2 to get that one.

Simple as games were, we loved them for all those things. As times and platforms have changed, so have the games we play on them. Point and click adventures (such as Sam & Max Hit the Road, Monkey Island, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Day of the Tentacle, etc. etc.) have passed into legend (which is odd, since my 286 didn't have a mouse, so I can't see why the interface isn't really easy to translate to console), and the days of the awesome space simulator games (think X-Wing, TIE Fighter, Freespace 2 and the ilk) have no modern equivalents. We hunger for the games of the past but we very rarely go back to play them because we know that ultimately the 8-bit graphics are going to disappoint us, no matter how clever the games were.

I don't think I could tell you with a straight face that the old games were better than those that we play today. Oh, they were good. They were better than good, some of them were groundbreaking and downright amazing. Frontier: Elite II was without par. X-Wing was story-driven space combat in a FUCKING X-WING. The sequel, TIE Fighter had an even better story and the chance to fly for the Empire. Mostly, I admit, against Imperial splinter groups (perhaps blowing up too many of Wedge's buddies was against the LucasArts moral code), but still. Dark Forces was late in its genre but Jedi Knight was amazing. Alone in the Dark was scary as hell. Any point and click adventure from LucasArts (with the possible exception of Full Throttle) was a sock-blowingly hilarious and enjoyable immersion in a world of puzzle-solving genius. The original Civilization. Theme Park. System Shock. Freespace 2. These games set precedents.

Much of what we nostalgic gamers really want is those games back again, updated and shiny so we can play them again with today's technology, or better yet, a continued storyline. We... okay, fuck it, I admit it, I want Freespace 3. I want more Monkey Island. I want more X-Wing.

Fortunately, on one of those points, things are looking up.

LucasArts are apparently more benevolent gods than I had previously assumed. While I doubt I shall ever see another space combat simulation that will grab me so thoroughly as X-Wing, Freespace 1 & 2 and TIE Fighter did, I've been hoping that I would get to see another point and click from LucasArts. My prayers to the Dark Gods of Gaming were answered this month.

Engaging with a company called Telltale Games, LucasArts have released the first installment of a new Monkey Island game: Tales from Monkey Island. Split into five chapters to be released monthly and downloadable through Steam, this is an exciting turn of events for those with fond memories of Guybrush Threepwood, the pirate whose sole talent is that he can hold his breath for ten minutes.

So a new game with old favourites. Nostalgia is indulged, but not sated. As if reading my deepest darkest wishes, the creators of Monkey Island thought: Hey, you know what, we're releasing a new game, but the first one was amazing. Do you think we could make that accessible to a new gaming generation?

The first game in the series, The Secret of Monkey Island, was released way back in 1990. I played it on my 286 - my parents refused to buy me a console, and instead would only buy me clever games where I had to solve insane object puzzles. Sorry, clever lateral thinking exercises. Monkey Island and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis were the first two computer games I played (excepting a demo of Secret Sam or whatever that 8-bit spy-based Platform game was). Monkey Island is cult. LucasArts have re-made it with hand drawn art, new voiceovers, and a good dash of nostalgic love. You can even flick between the original 8-bit graphics and the new hand-drawn one at the touch of a button. It's the same game, but pretty (and cheekily ham-fisted) enough to appeal to the old-school gamer and newcomer alike. Plus it cost me less than £7 from Steam.

We, (well, I) would like more of that, please.

Now excuse me, you fight like a dairy farmer.

1 comment:

Paul said...

How appropriate. You fight like a cow.