Yeah, it turns out that I still don’t like Sam & Max Hit The Road.
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.
Did you know that the original Secret Of Monkey Island didn’t do that well commercially? It’s true; it sold strongly in Europe but these were offset by poor sales in the larger US market, and so it was only a moderate success. If LucasArts had known that ahead of time it’s likely that Monkey Island 2 never would have been made, but fortunately publishing and distributing a game on a global scale took much longer back in the 90s and so Ron Gilbert and co. jumped straight into the development of Monkey Island 2 after they finished Monkey Island 1, with no idea of how well the first game had sold because it hadn’t even made it to stores yet. This approach had its good and bad points; on the one hand we got a Monkey Island 2, but on the other the developers going head-first into a sequel meant they didn’t have time to critically assess why the first one worked and why people liked it.
So I guess I got what I wanted out of this project. Despite having played through The Secret Of Monkey Island six or seven times over the past three decades, and despite already thinking of it as a stone cold classic, experiencing the trials and travails of LucasArts prior to its release gave me a whole new appreciation of why it’s a classic. It’s an adjunct to my Bad Game Theory, where you need to play the occasional bad game to give you the right context for what a good one looks like; here I needed a better appreciation of the games that had come before it to fully understand why Monkey Island was such a groundbreaking tour de force of art, humour and puzzle design.
I have been aware of the existence of Loom ever since meeting the pirate in Monkey Island wearing an “Ask Me About Loom” badge who is otherwise monosyllabic, but who spouts flowery ad copy for the game at you if you Ask Him About Loom. A more serious, fantasy-themed adventure game from the same people who made one of my favourite games ever? Sounds great, sign me up! Unfortunately despite first hearing about Loom in 1995, I was not actually in a position to play Loom until 2009, as the game had almost immediately disappeared from UK shops and wasn’t available on digital distribution for another twenty years, and by that point I had all but forgotten Loom existed. Not only that, but so did nearly everyone else; it seems that despite the generous advertising plug, the release of Monkey Island in the same year massively overshadowed that of Loom. LucasArts were known as the Monkey Island studio afterwards, not the Loom studio1, and while Loom is more fondly remembered than, say, Zak McKracken, it remains little more than a footnote at the bottom of the list of LucasArts’ greatest achievements. Yet there remains a cult following of people who talk fondly about Loom, and not just because they’re characters in a game who have been explicitly written to advertise Loom, and so I was genuinely interested in experiencing Loom for the first time as part of this series just so that I could see what it was about.
Ah, now we’re getting somewhere.