Jun 26, 2010

Subject E14 - The Final Session

It's not that the internet isn't the paradise of weird mails that will possibly make you rich, get you a PhD or the partner of your dreams, but Mr. Leonard Huntings' emails are my absolute favourite ones. They are always delightfully disturbing. Here's the latest one:

Dear friend...

I write this letter to you under a great deal of pressure. I have been hiding in the shadows, trying to tell to you the truth, but they found about it and now they are coming for me. The last recording that I recovered is now available and nothing was the same after it... Bertrand was the first and then came many others. Including myself...

You have to come to the Hanwell Mental Institute. I know this is happening to you as well...

This is the last you will hear from me...


Jun 25, 2010

The Adventure Lantern Lit Again

Adventure LanternMost of the early dwellers of Gnome's Lair will remember what Adventure Lantern was all about, and should probably be already thrilled enough to cry with demented joy while searching for their collector's copy of King's Quest II. The rest of you luvs simply have to follow this very link and grab the first Adventure Lantern issue in what feels like ages. It might be small, but it has been put together by AL's esteemed editor without any help and is a most brilliant pilot for a new era. Oh, and I do believe you should all know that AL remains the only adventure gaming focused magazine, and that is has always been a freely downloadable PDF.

Jun 24, 2010

Maziacs: The Boardgame

MaziacsFirst, there was Mazogs on the Sinclair ZX81. It was a dungeon crawler and it was great. Then, there was Maziacs for the ZX Spectrum. It was a dungeon crawler and it was great. Now, there is Maziacs: The Boardgame. It is a dungeon crawler and it is great. It also is absolutely free, provided of course you have a printer and some dice, and can be played with purely analog means.

The question though is whether Maziacs: The Boardgame, a boardgame based on a rather ancient and definitely simple CRPG, is worth your time, effort and paper. Well, I'm pretty sure it is. The rules are incredibly simple, smart, fun and versatile, and the game can be played both in its standard single-player mode and cooperatively. I'm actually pretty sure it could be run with a Game Master too. As for its aesthetics, simple as they are, they remain true to the original source and evoke a certain retro feel. Definitely worth a try. Download your PDF copies here.

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Jun 21, 2010

Raze Magazine Issue One

Raze issue 1Devils Crash

First published in late 1990, Raze was an excellent and pretty much final multi-format magazine by Newsfield, that read like a slightly more console-centric, slightly more Japan-loving version of The Games Machine. Happily, and thanks to the Out-Of-Print-Archive, you can now download the original issue 1 of Raze for free. Simply follow this link and grab a high definition, top quality scan of the magazine, that has the blessing of Newsfield Publications and is as legal as they get. You'll need a cbr reader to enjoy the mag, mind, so I suggest you have a look at the equally freeware Comical.

Content-wise this first issue of Raze covers everything from the Atari Lynx and the Amiga, to the Sega Master System and Amstrad's hopeless GX4000. In its 100 pages the issue features an extensive Which Console? article and sports dozens of reviews, previews and news-bits about such all-time favourites as Shadow of the Beast II, Devil's Crash, Lemmings and James Pond. Oh, and after you've done reading it, there's this excellent Newsfield related interview with Roger Kean to read, enjoy and fuel your nostalgia.

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The Return of the S.K.U.N.K.Z.

Remember SKUNKZ the 80s-styled sidescrolling arcade shooter? Well, it's back in a vastly updated and slightly less infuriatingly difficult version. You can download it here and enjoy its freeware retro charms.

Jun 20, 2010

Game Sniped Filled with Ancient Toys

As most of you dearest readers of Gnome's Lair should already be aware of, I'm more than fond of retro games and old hardware. I even -allow me to remind you- run the Retro Treasures blog and regularly try to find the odd classic bargain over at eBay. So, uhm, I do hope you'll let me suggest an excellent retro gaming and collecting site. Oh, you do, lovely! Now head over to GameSniped and treat yourselves to an exotic variety of retro (and contemporary) rarities, oddities, and even bargains. Just like the one posted above.

Jun 19, 2010

Addressing Certain Disturbing Recordings

It's amazing what kind of letters a gaming blog will receive these dark days. Even mental institutes fell they have to contact us. Here's what I got today:
Dear Sirs,

I am writing this public letter on behalf of the Hanwell Mental Institute, in the hope that it will clarify a distressing and misleading situation that came to light at the beginning of June. A person by the name of "Leonard Huntings" has been offering a series of video recordings and attempting to pass them as actual archive material from the institute. The Internet website in question that I am referring to is located at http://www.youtube.com/user/lhuntings

We claim absolutely no connection to these outrageous videos. More so, we suspect this "Leonard Huntings" is a nickname used by the perpetrator, who has not the courage to use his real name. We never admitted patients by the names of Leonard Huntings or Bertrand Laroche, who seems to be subject of the videos. Thus, we are dismissing this stunt as nothing else than juvenile efforts to tarnish the good image of our institute. Authorities have been alerted and I trust the aforementioned Internet website will be disabled shortly.

I sincerely thank you for your time and I'm truly sorry to see you being bothered by this childish event.

Yours Truly,

Dr. Andrew H. Miller
Head Director

Jun 16, 2010

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Remade

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the GalaxyThe Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by the late and great Douglas Adams is a series of absolutely hilarious books and radio shows, that spawned a decidedly mediocre film and a mostly excellent text adventure by Infocom. Then again, you know all that. You probably also know that said game was created by Douglas Adams himself and Steve Meretzky, and -provided you've been reading this blog for some time- that the game has since evolved quite a bit. You might even have already heard something about a brand new remake. Even read a behind-the-scenes making of the thing.

Happily, the H2G2 remake has now been released and you can download it from its official site. For free of course. As for its title, well, you'll be shocked to find out its none other than the rather apt The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Remake. Oh, yes, and it's a pretty radical remake too, as it transforms the parser-based, text-only game into a proper, graphical, mouse-driven, point-and-click adventure.

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

The surreal, colorful, low-res and quite abstract graphics of the remake are generally excellent and more than appropriate to the theme, whereas the new interface works like a charm. What's more, the remake is extremely faithful both to the book and the original game, and manages to fully and successfully translate the game and its puzzles into a new genre. It even makes the thing actually playable (without a walkthrough) by non-superhuman adventurers through the implementation of two difficulty modes, a streamlined interface, quite a few subtle clues, the removal of most dead-ends and some smart design ideas. As for the soundscape of the game, well, it's more than memorable and appropriate.

So, yes, I do suggest you try said remake. Even if you've never played the original. Even if you never actually found out who Douglas Adams was. Just don't expect it to be over in a couple or so hours. Expect t to be extremely funny.

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Jun 12, 2010

Opening the Sierra Chest

Sierra, a publisher and developer of dozens of classic games, has an obviously rich history starting from the late 70s and spanning almost 30 years, during which it managed to provide us (for a price, of course) with such gems as King's Quest, Leisure Suit Larry, Space Quest, Gabriel Knight and, yes, even the original Half Life. Sierra's legions of not-that-young-anymore fans will now be thrilled to know that the amazing Sierra Chest is a site that will cater to their every need and their rampant nostalgia. It extensively covers, after all, almost every single game developed or published by the company, sports a forum, tons of info, downloads, links, game demos, videos and even on-line versions of Sierra's lovely publications and catalogs. Go on, have a look fellow adventurers.

Jun 11, 2010

SubjectE14 -- Session2 -- What monster?

And I quote:
UNDISCLOSED LOCATION - June 11, 2010. The second part of the recovered
tape is made available. It gets much worse from now on. I’m not sure
if I should show you the rest... Is this enough to convince you that
the rumors about Hanwell Mental Institute are real? Look closely and
pay attention: this is what they did to my friend. They did it to me
as well. And you.

I may not be able to continue with this. You should spread the word.

Jun 10, 2010

The unique experience that was Fahrenheit (or Indigo Prophecy I guess)

fahrenheitWhen the Fahrenheit demo came out on PC, the gaming crowds seemed really impressed. Oddly, so were pure adventurers (of the point-and-click variety). This, you see, was a very unique and refreshingly innovative game with a demo that managed to brilliantly showcase all its best elements and leave you wanting. It was immediately evident that Fahrenheit was a game heavy on story, a game that was very proficient in using cinematographic techniques, a game that was obviously an adventure at heart, but also a game with beautiful graphics, impressive production values, excellent music and convincing atmosphere. The fact that it opened with the protagonist brutally murdering a random guy in a diner’s toilets did help establish the mood too.

What’s more, the full game, and that was a most refreshing change, mostly delivered on what the demo promised. Not that it didn’t have its mediocre bits, some incredibly bad writing or a shockingly silly ending, mind you, but it really was unique. And if you haven’t played it yet, it will still feel unique in 2010, as no other game, beside its PS3 exclusive sequel, dared pull its tricks again. First of all, its context sensitive interface had both an early Wii-like mentality and let you interact with almost anything in the game in a variety of ways, that almost provided you with the -perceived- interactivity of a text adventure. Secondly, the brilliant cinematics were turned into quasi-interactive ryth mini-games, and you also got to play a variety of different characters, solve some pretty interesting puzzles, intelligently interact with incredibly detailed environments and even get (almost) scared. Then, the use of multiple cameras went beyond mere aesthetics. It was a new gameplay element, that allowed you, for example, to see an adversary approaching while still trying to solve a puzzle or decide what to do next.

indigo prophecyStill, the strength of the game lay elsewhere. Fahrenheit, though admittedly only at times, managed to offer players a sense of complete freedom and the branching storyline to go with it. Take the game’s opening scene for example. You have just murdered a man you never knew and are standing bloody-handed in a toilet. You can simply try to escape unnoticed, you can try washing up and hiding the body, you can hide or simply ignore the murder weapon, you can panic and run out of the diner, you can go back and seat at your table pretending nothing happened, you can try to figure things out by examining the crime scene or even just leave via the back door. Assuming you actually left via the back door, you now had the option of either wasting time and talking to a weird yet intriguing homeless person, leaving the place on foot, going for a taxi or riding the tube. And then, when you assumed the role of the not totally unattractive detective chasing the former you, you’d have to actually deal with your former actions.

Intriguing, isn’t it? And it does get better, trust me. Sports a ton of minor innovations too. So, uhm, if you haven’t played Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy in the US), and you can stomach a mediocre B-movie plot, I strongly suggest you give it a try. Here's the PC version demo.

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And so I'm back (from outer space)

Well, my dissertation is over, the army is over and I thought I might just try and spend some time on my dear Gnome's Lair. You know, some quality gaming time, that should probably translate into quite a few reviews, retrospectives and articles, and most probably some games. After all, the time has come to actually try and finish that game I promised you aeons ago, and start working on the next one.

Oh, and if I were you, I would expect some more surprises. Possibly even a whole new site (no, not a blog). And a revival of Retro Treasures, Gaming on the Go and Walls of Gaming, though I really should finish my articles for the excellent Retroaction magazine first. So, uhm, exciting, eh?

PS. Don't forget that more Gnome (in tiny well-shaped quantities) is available via Twitter and Facebook

Jun 5, 2010

Subject E14 -- Session 1 (?)

Got hold of this today, and I thought I'd break my silence and let you know.

UNDISCLOSED LOCATION - June 4, 2010. The following tape was found at a confidential archive and has been painstakingly restored. It proves beyond doubt that what happened at the Hanwell Mental Institute is true. This is only a very small glimpse of the atrocities committed there. I can show you more...

I beg you to refrain from contacting me as I have put myself in great danger already. Thank you, and spread the word.