Whatever happened to Impressions Games?
And so, after a rather longer period than I anticipated, we come back to the beginning. This whole series was prompted by my booting up Curse Of Monkey Island back in October of last year, and wondering: why was Curse the last high-profile 2D point and click adventure game that LucasArts made? Was the genre an evolutionary dead-end? Was the lure of 3D graphics — which were exploding in 1997 thanks to the Voodoo accelerator card — too strong to resist? And considering Curse in particular, I wanted to get a bit more context on just why LucasArts had abandoned their previously wildly-successful genre at precisely the moment they’d managed to usher it to its apotheosis — because Curse is absolutely fantastic.
So, I’m about to say something that might sound surprising coming from somebody who has been going around with the box art from The Dig as his avatar for the last 15 years. There’s good reason for that; not only is it an extremely striking piece of artwork, but there’s a lot about The Dig that I absolutely adore. I love the theme. I love the music. I love the artwork and the animation, and above all I love the sheer sense of atmosphere that The Dig conveys at all times. It’s the first one of these games where, for once, I don’t resent having to watch my character walk from one side of a screen to the other because that gives me a bit of time to soak in the sounds and visuals of its mysterious alien world. The Dig gets a hell of a lot right, for all that it makes some weird choices in terms of its interface; it would work extremely well as a visual novel, or perhaps as the 1995 equivalent of a walking simulator.
But as a classically-styled point-and-click adventure game with puzzles? I’m not so sure about that.
Prior to playing it for this series, I would have sworn that Full Throttle belonged firmly in my “unplayed” category of LucasArts classics. “Unplayed” isn’t an exact description, as I did have access to most of them at the time and the ones that I didn’t I’ve since picked up on GOG, but anything in this column I’ve not played for much more than twenty minutes — the amount of time it takes to boot it up, think “That’s neat!” (or not1), and then immediately forget about it for the next decade or three. In Full Throttle’s case I had very distinct memories of playing through the opening biker bar segment three or four times and absolutely nothing after that, since I hadn’t played past that point.
This one is going to be tricky. Everything I am about to write is, in a way, largely redundant, because I already wrote an In Praise Of post about Day Of The Tentacle back when I still wrote In Praise Of posts, and I also reviewed the Remastered version when it came out in 20161. I think it is a strong contender for the best adventure game ever made, it’s probably also the smartest adventure game ever made, and Day Of The Tentacle is the one game in this series that I actively go out of my way to replay every few years. Because of this, it’s also the one game in this series where I have the entire solution already memorised. I don’t need a walkthrough to beat Day Of The Tentacle. I’ll never need a walkthrough to beat Day Of The Tentacle.
Indiana Jones And The Fate Of Atlantis is second on the list of games I was most looking forward to playing for the first time as part of this series. Unlike most of the other games on that list it’s only ever referred to as a stone-cold classic — both at the time and by anyone you ask about it today — and I also quite liked Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade despite that game being comparatively clunky and obtuse by modern standards. The concept of an Indiana Jones adventure game clearly has legs, and I was excited to play something wholly original that wasn’t shackled to a movie script, and which had been developed during LucasArts’ true golden age.
Imagine my surprise, then, to discover that, contrary to everything I’d heard about it over the last quarter-century, Indiana Jones And The Fate Of Atlantis fucking sucks.