Sierra Adventure Games Playthrough

It’s worth mentioning that the remakes are spectacular. Particularly those for KQ2 and KQ3. KQ2: Romancing the Throne got expanded into KQ2: Romancing the Stones with extra content (which TOTALLY fits), upgraded art and even voice acting. I’d recommend that one over the original to newcomers, without any reservations.
The KQ3: To Heir is Human streamlined a lot of the original clunkiness of the magic map and spellmaking.

Really enjoying reading these. It's interesting that you're already talking about big jumps in content.

I say keep it coming!

Yeah, I agree. It's really interesting to look back at these, and I had never even heard of the games you've played so far. I'll definitely be excited to see your take on the games I do remember.

Eleima wrote:

It’s worth mentioning that the remakes are spectacular. Particularly those for KQ2 and KQ3. KQ2: Romancing the Throne got expanded into KQ2: Romancing the Stones with extra content (which TOTALLY fits), upgraded art and even voice acting. I’d recommend that one over the original to newcomers, without any reservations.
The KQ3: To Heir is Human streamlined a lot of the original clunkiness of the magic map and spellmaking.

I may hit these up after I'm done with the 88 games already on the list

Playthrough #3
Hi-Res Adventure Era
Game: Mission Asteroid (Hi-Res Adventure #0)
Release Year: 1980
Platform: Apple ][
How Played: Used an Apple ][ Emulator on PC
Playtime: 2.5 hours
Number of hints: 0

Positives: Easier game makes for a breath of fresh air compared to the previous entry in the series. Race against time puts the pressure on - you have to finish the game within a certain number of moves. Trying to optimize to smallest number of commands make for an interesting mechanic.

Negatives: This same mechanic can be slightly frustrating and makes for a lot of repetition.

While this is technically the third game in the Hi-Res Adventure series, Mission Asteroid is actually subtitled as Hi-Res Adventure #0. The reason is pretty simple: Ken and Roberta realized the previous two entries in the series carried a significant amount of challenge, and they wanted to write a game that novices to the adventure genre could use to get their feet wet. As a result, Mission Asteroid is treated as a precursor "tutorial" adventure in which the puzzles - though not as interesting - are quite straightforward.

The plot is the same as the movie Armageddon. There is an asteroid headed for earth and it will wipe out all life on the planet. The asteroid will hit the earth within a matter of hours. You have to take off in a rocket, land on the asteroid and explode it into a bajillion pieces. Oh, and get away before the explosion takes place.

It appears that, long before King's Quest 3 came on the scene, this became the first Sierra adventure to include a timing mechanic. The game starts at 12 noon, the asteroid will hit at 7:15pm, and every turn takes five minutes. So you have 87 turns to finish the game.

This has the effect of turning the game into a series of multiple playthroughs in which you repeat the same commands over and over again. Will I make it during this playthrough? How about this one? Nope, too many commands. Let me backtrack to another save and playthrough again. Oops, I guess that save was too late. Let me restart the game and go through the command list again.

In the end I solved the game by writing down every successful command, figuring out which commands were extraneous, removing them and going through the game once more with that command list. This was fairly labor-intensive, sure, but the process of figuring it out was moderately entertaining. But the grunt work to go through the same sequence of steps over and over again detracted overall from the experience.

Next up: Cranston Manor (Hi-Res Adventure #3)

Update: I haven't given up

Been busy with life, Tomb Raider, and a few other things. I'm spending about half an hour to an hour a week playing Cranston Manor. Hopefully I'll have an update soon.

Early impressions are that the game is really big and there seems to be a lot to do. Interesting that these earlier titles seemed to favor a lot of rooms vs. later animated adventure titles which often weren't nearly as big but really focused on the story.

Will keep you guys in the loop!

Playthrough #4
Hi-Res Adventure Era
Game: Cranston Manor (Hi-Res Adventure #3)
Release Year: 1981
Platform: Apple ][
How Played: Used an Apple ][ Emulator on PC
Playtime: 4 hours
Number of hints: 6

Positives: Lots of varied locations, logical inventory-based puzzles (mostly), simple treasure-hunting premise.

Negatives: Extremely large number of rooms makes mapping difficult. A few red herrings along the way.

Notable primarily as a footnote in Sierra’s early history, this game is mainly a treasure hunt. This time around Roberta was not involved; the game was designed by Larry Ledden, who reportedly had previously published the game as a text-only version by Artworx Software Company. He was approached to purchase the rights for the graphical version. The result, the fourth Hi-Res Adventure game, was designed jointly by a man named Harold DeWitz and Ken Williams.

The premise is that you are in the town of Coarsegold (longtime adventure fans will recognize this as the small town near Yosemite National Park where Sierra Online was founded), and Old Man Cranston has just died, leaving treasures scattered throughout his sprawling mansion. The town by this point is mostly deserted (it seems that Cranson was a crankypants and ran the townspeople off, or something). Your job of course is to discover a way into the mansion and find these treasures for yourself.

The game doesn't start in the mansion though - it actually begins on the streets of Coarsegold itself, and you need to navigate the town to find some objects that you will need to get into the manor. On top of the manor itself, there are a few other locations, including a hedge maze and a large network of caverns. Pens and paper at the ready! Or, in my case, Visio-like diagramming software!

As you might be able to tell, like The Wizard and the Princess before it, the game has a ridiculous number of screens, all held on a single 140K 5.25” Apple ][ floppy disk. It would seem that at this point in Sierra's history, they took great pride in cramming as many locations as they could onto one disk. Later on, they will continue to outdo themselves in this sense with 1982's Time Zone - the first sprawling adventure game (with no less than 1,500 screens!) that could only fit on six double-sided floppies.

Unfortunately, I felt that the organization of Cranston’s Manor left something to be desired. It seems that by King’s Quest, Sierra had at least learned how to gradually order different environments so that the progression from one to the other made sense. Generally rooms in later Sierra adventures fit onto a N-S-E-W grid. In many cases, the rooms in Cranston’s Manor do not - some locations form strange loops where, for example, both north and east lead to the same location. Or, a hole in two completely different locations of the caverns lead to the same room. Added onto this are a few red herrings that will cause you to waste time in understanding their purpose, but serve no real function (I'm looking at you snake holes!).

For the most part, the puzzles are logical and inventory based - with a few head scratchers that will make you think “what were the designers THINKING?”. But in the end, I got bored. There were a few rooms I didn’t find, and I finally used a walkthrough to get several hints and finish the adventure off.

In conclusion, as long as you spend time discovering every little nook and cranny of the game map, finishing this adventure is only moderately difficult, if also time consuming.

Next up: Ulysses and the Golden Fleece (Hi-Res Adventure #4)

dpmedeiros wrote:

Number of hints: 6

What's your threshold for deciding you're going to look up hints? It's something I try to do as little as possible, but reading this it sounds like 6 is a pretty low number!

dpmedeiros wrote:

Generally rooms in later Sierra adventures fit onto a N-S-E-W grid. In many cases, the rooms in Cranston’s Manor do not - some locations form strange loops where, for example, both north and east lead to the same location.

Is this that 'jank' thing that they were talking about on the Podcast?

Stevintendo wrote:
dpmedeiros wrote:

Number of hints: 6

What's your threshold for deciding you're going to look up hints? It's something I try to do as little as possible, but reading this it sounds like 6 is a pretty low number!

Generally I will try to avoid for as long as possible, but if I stop having fun and am getting overly frustrated I'll break down and look up a single hint. Also, in the case of Cranston's Manor I felt like I was spending way too much time trying to complete the game and wanted to get to other games in the list.

dpmedeiros wrote:
Stevintendo wrote:
dpmedeiros wrote:

Number of hints: 6

What's your threshold for deciding you're going to look up hints? It's something I try to do as little as possible, but reading this it sounds like 6 is a pretty low number!

Generally I will try to avoid for as long as possible, but if I stop having fun and am getting overly frustrated I'll break down and look up a single hint. Also, in the case of Cranston's Manor I felt like I was spending way too much time trying to complete the game and wanted to get to other games in the list.

Yeah I try to take a similar approach, and look up hints as little as possible. I just played The Way: Remastered, which is heavy on the puzzles, and I found I had to look up a couple of hints because I'd gone from having a great time to just getting annoyed with the game... On the other hand, I regret using the hint system when I played Thimbleweed Park, and wish I'd just stuck with it for a bit longer...

Hello again, it's been awhile.

Health and family problems have kept me away from this project since last October. On return I have found I'm not particularly looking forward to re-engaging with the Hi-Res Adventure Era. Games from this epoch feel so much like work.

I will keep the remaining Hi-Res games on my list to eventually come back to later. I've decided to jump forward to the next phase: AGI.

Onward ho, to join the adventures of good Sir Graham in his Quest for the Crown!

Playthrough #5
AGI Era
Game: King's Quest
Release Year: 1983
Platform: PC
How Played: Got the release on GOG - uses ScummVM
Playtime: 3 hours
Number of hints: 2
Score: 122 of 158 points

Positives: This is the original AGI adventure from Sierra Online, inheriting leaps and bounds of innovation beyond the ADL releases they were known for so far. The graphics are bright and lively, though still surprisingly crude - even later AGI releases such as Space Quest I and II will rank higher in the art category. Many of the puzzles and characters are charming, if shallow.

Negatives: Some ridiculously inane puzzles that back in the day would have added weeks, or maybe months of playtime.

Yes, the granddaddy of them all. This is the game that put Sierra Online on the map.

Huge innovation here when compared with the Hi-Res Adventure releases: you now have a character that can move around a "3D" world - in front of, behind and to the sides of objects. Also, animation! And your character can swim, jump and duck! This was the real prototype that set Sierra off into its heyday with so many classics that we all can remember.

This is actually my first playthrough of the original King's Quest based on the AGI engine. I've beat the game a couple of times in the past when I played the SCI remake. However, it was pretty easy going during this playthrough - surprisingly, I remembered the solution to many of the puzzles from the SCI game; the original edition was only slightly different.

One huge difference that I would have found enormously frustrating had I played the original game as a little kid: the solution to the infamous gnome name-guessing puzzle. As it turns out, the different editions of KQ have a different solution. So now, not only does the puzzle require a working knowledge of fairy tale minutiae, but also requires a few additional mental leaps:

Spoiler:

In the 1990 EGA version, you had to know the gnome's name was Rumplestiltskin - fair enough, you may remember this from fairy tales you've read as a child. In addition to this, there's a hint: in the witch's gingerbread house you find a note: "It's important to think backwards". This clue (if you're able to make the connection) informs the solution: spell Rumplestiltskin backwards: Nikstlitselpmur.

It turns out the original release make it even harder. You don't have to spell it backwards. Oh no.
Use a retrograde alphabet. That is, map the name's original letters to an alphabet in reverse: A=Z, B=Y, C=X, etc. The solution: Ifnkovhgroghprm. Heaven help us.

Instead of wasting time on a puzzle this inane, I decided to use a hint.

Other than this, the game was enjoyable and a great nostalgic treasure hunt through rose colored glasses, though perhaps only because I knew the basic solution to the game (fuzzily) already. Mapping was still important (I didn't have that memorized), and will continue to be so until at least King's Quest 3, which sports an automap. The treasure hunt theme will continue though into King's Quest 2, the next AGI release. It's only until Space Quest, I believe, that story and plot began to matter more.

I wonder how much 5 year old me would have enjoyed it had I played it back then, sans hint book. I am not sure I would have had the patience for it.

Next up: Mickey's Space Adventure

I remember the 1990 puzzle version. Guess that's the one I played.

You thought I gave up, didn't you?

Playthrough #6
AGI Era
Game: Mickey's Space Adventure
Release Year: 1984 (Apple ][), 1986 (PC)
Platform: PC
How Played: eXoDOS Game Collection
Playtime: 1.5 hours
Number of hints: Used a walkthrough instead of mapping

Positives:
Interesting facts about the solar system presented; definitely reinforces reading comprehension and logic skills. Leverages the Disney brand as well as any game of the era could.

Negatives:
Mapping is frequently interrupted by the annoying requirement to return to your ship on a regular basis; definitely a slog for grown ups.

Story
Mickey and Pluto are walking along one day when they hear a noise. Racing down the path they discover a flying saucer. They discover that this saucer was sent seventy-five years ago by an alien named XL30 of the planet Oron. Apparently the planet's historical archives - contained within a single crystal (why would any civilization think that was a good idea??) - were stolen by an interstellar criminal. He broke the crystal into nine pieces, hiding them on each planet of the solar system.

Your mission is to go to each of these planets in the flying saucer, find the pieces of the crystal and put it back together. Along the way the game reinforces skills such as reading comprehension, logical thinking, and problem solving along with the pre-requisite knowledge of our solar system.

Background
Initially released on the Apple ][ and designed by Roberta Williams, this game (as far as I can tell) is an upgraded version of the pre-AGI engine (ADL). This engine was modified to eliminate the normal text parser: instead the possible verbs and objects are given onscreen and you can select them with the keyboard. Allegedly this would simplify the game for very young children who knew not how to type.

Does this sound familiar to you? This was three years before a game with an enhanced version of a similar interface (albeit with an expanded vocabulary and mouse support) was released: Maniac Mansion. It's a curiosity that video game historians in general never seem to mention this.

The game was the first in a series of collaborations with a then struggling Disney Studios. This would lead to four games overall: Mickey's Space Adventure, Winnie the Pooh in the Hundred Acre Wood, Donald Duck's Playground and The Black Cauldron. The first three were considered "edutainment" titles; the last was an early example of an AGI game outside of King's Quest. After this, the partnership with Disney ended.

Impressions
I remember owning this game (ok, technically my mom owned it), back in 1986. We bought it at the same time we bought Space Quest to run on my mother's Tandy 1000.

I never got to play it: one of the disks was damaged, and for some reason my parents never got around to replacing it. I was actually really disappointed - while my mom let me stay up late to watch her play Space Quest on occasion, this would have been my game: I was obsessed with outer space at the time - I remember owning an encyclopedia of the solar system that must have been about 250 pages long which I thumbed through ravenously and read over and over again. Visiting those planets as part of an adventure game would have been a dream come true.

Seven year old me would have definitely enjoyed this game much more than I did tonight. Seven year old me would also have been frustrated as hell.

To explain: as we have seen so far, mapping has been a common theme shared by all of the early adventures, and indeed this is a learning skill that the title emphasizes. Complicating this however is a failure scenario every time you're out exploring the planets. If your spacesuit runs out of air - you're screwed.

You read that right: in a kid's game, you can run out of air. In a kid's game, the game ends. Fortunately Sierra staff was wise enough to avoid scarring children for life ("Whaaaa?? Mickey died? No Mickey! Not Mickey! Waaaahhhhh!!! "). Instead, the game ends with the message, "You have run out of air and Mickey and Pluto are too tired to continue." Quit to DOS.

Which, now that I think about it, must be nearly as bad. They're just tired? Soooo...will they take a nap and get back up? But won't they need air to do that? Wait...so does that mean they're stranded and unable to move?? But wait, don't I need air to survive? Hmmm...let me see what happens if I stop breathing, maybe I'll just get tired and take a nap...

Am I overthinking it?

To recharge your spacesuits, you have to get back to the ship in time, press a button, remove the suit, then put it back on. So: on any given planet, while you're trying to find a piece of the crystal and mapping the area, you have to do this over and over again until you're done on that planet. Were kids way more patient back then? Actually I guess they were - but it still seems to me that this would have become boring rather quickly. I can see many a doe-eyed 7-10 year old gnashing their teeth in frustration, furrowing their brows in disappointment, crying silent tears and moving on. Of course, It's not like I had a bunch of other games to turn to at the time so: maybe not.

The puzzles the game presents are inventory-based and extremely simple even by the standards of Sierra's early adventures. Likely though, they would have challenged children to just enough of a degree. Except for that stupid spacesuit.

The game's educational chops are a bit rudimentary: some basic information on each of the nine planets of the solar system is covered, and there's a scale you can use to understand the effect of gravity on mass, but for the most part it just scratches the surface. Hopefully, your child will be intrigued enough to go and learn more on their own.

Actually. Don't have your child play this. What kind of a parent are you anyway? A cruel, remorseless tyrant, that's what.

Next up:

Technically, the next game in the list is Winnie the Pooh in the Hundred Acre Wood. I think I've had enough of the ADL/PreAGI engine at this point, so skipping ahead to Sierra's next AGI game and a much brighter future.

On to: King's Quest II: Romancing the Throne