Tag Archives: Sierra

Manhunter: New York

Manhunter: New York DOS Front Cover

Publisher: Sierra
Developer: Evryware
Year: 1988
Platform: DOS; Amiga; Apple II

The most original idea Sierra picked up, Manhunter unfortunately fails to capitalize on its uniqueness.

Aliens landed in New York, circa 2002. It took them less than three days to destroy the city, and less than a year to end the human resistance. Or so they thought. You have been assigned by the alien “orbs” to be a man hunter. Since some of the aliens’ technology is not as compatible with human beings as they thought it would be, you (along with many others) need to help them. You have no choice. You must investigate humans who are not obedient and report them to the aliens.

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Leisure Suit Larry 6: Shape Up Or Slip Out!

Publisher: Sierra
Developer: Sierra
Year: 1993
Platform: DOS; Mac; Windows 3.x

One can divide the six Larry games into two distinct eras. The first three were all released in the 1980’s and used a typing interface.  The final three were all released in the point’n’click era with better graphics and sound available. The first games in each era had pretty shoddy game design and reeked of amateurish handling. Each game improved upon itself, with the final game being a masterpiece, representative of the era it was released in. The main difference is that while the first cycle advanced quickly with LSL2, the improvement was much more gradual with LSL6.

Like its more successful stepchild, Love For Sail, LSL6 is the first game in the series (except arguably the first) to ditch the complications of working with a plot and focuses entirely on the babes. Passionate Patti has left you for good. You win a trip to a resort, La Costa Lotta (puns abound in this game). There are many babes to be wooed (e.g. Char Donay, among other fine…um…spirits). And in sweet simplistic fashion, you must bring each of them the item, or items, necessary for them to feel obligated to return certain favors to you. While a lot of horrible games of an adult nature have the same premise, Larry is the perfect setting for these antics, as the nature of the beast is parody rather than titillation.

Leisure Suit Larry 6: Shape Up or Slip Out! DOS There is a floating bar in the pool. (MCGA/VGA)

It’s hard to review this game and not compare it to the one before and the one after. Its predecessor was the worst commercial adventure of all-time, and its follower is great and considered by some to be the best commercial adventure of all-time. This one seems to fall exactly between the two extremes. The graphics have improved a little, but are still tacky and gaudy (and while the narrator points this out several times, it still hurts the eyes).  The sound and music is slightly better, but usually painful to listen to. The puzzles are a little more clever, and usually fair, but do not impress. And the game engine is easier to use, but still contains many bugs that cause the game to crash.

But despite the sea of mediocrity, I enjoyed this adventure mainly due to the talkie version, which employs narrator Neal Ross to comment on Larry’s bumbles and successes. The fourth wall doesn’t even pretend to exist here, the narrator belittling Larry constantly, with Larry commenting back with regularity. I found this banter to be mostly amusing, and I even laughed out loud a few times. And despite using two different actors, this style was copied and perfected for the next and final game in the series. As for the rest of the voice acting, it is capable if not memorable.

Easy, quick, and relatively painless, Shape Up Or Slip Out! cannot be considered a black mark on the Larry series, but is not strong enough to warrant recommendation to casual fans. Those who do play should definitely find the talkie version, as it turns an otherwise lame adventure into a charming gambol.

Leisure Suit Larry 6: Shape Up or Slip Out! DOS Hmm, this mud bath is too hot! (MCGA/VGA)

Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned

Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned Windows Front Cover

Publisher: Sierra
Developer: Sierra
Year: 1999
Platform: Windows

Once again Jane Jensen and Sierra decide to completely overhaul the game’s design for the third adventure in this popular series. This time around we are given 3-D rendered graphics and gameplay from the first person perspective, and an increased difficulty level that doesn’t rely solely on finding the correct hotspot to click.

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Leisure Suit Larry 1: In the Land of the Lounge Lizards (VGA Remake)

Leisure Suit Larry 1:  In the Land of the Lounge Lizards DOS Front Cover

Publisher: Sierra
Developer: Sierra
Year: 1991
Platform: DOS, Macintosh, Amiga

The remake of Land of the Lounge Lizards (which was a remake of a the text game Softporn Adventure) could have turned a funny game with subpar game design into a masterpiece. Instead we are left with pieces. And none of them are masterful.

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1: Leisure Suit Larry 5: Passionate Patti Does A Little Undercover Work

Year: 1991
Designer: Al Lowe

One can sum everything up by stating Larry 4 was by far the superior game.

Leisure Suit Larry 5 is the most abominable commercialized computer game ever, though I admit I have not played Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude. Al Lowe hated the latter and went out of his way to make sure people knew he had no role in its design. For some reason he hasn’t apologized for this game yet.

The “new and improved” graphics are so wretched that after five minutes you’ll find yourself wishing you were staring directly into the sun. The music will make you want to go listen to a middle-school band performance. The point-and-click interface is only there to give you tendinitis. The puzzles are insultingly easy, the worst of them having you get into a wrestling ring where you must grab as many female private parts as you can; it’s like whack-a-mole, only less arousing. The great news is you can skip several of the puzzles if you feel like three hours is too long for an adventure game. The plot is more thread-bare than the women Larry meets. Nearly every joke falls flat. There is not one redeeming quality in this entire game.

Play it only to see how low Sierra sunk in the early 90’s.

2: Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco And The Time Rippers

 

Year: 1991
Designer: Mark Crowe & Scott Murphy

One one would think that taking a previously hilarious science fiction character and throwing him into a time travel story would be the easiest formula for success, but Space Quest IV is one of the laziest adventure games I have ever played, putting me to sleep even with a walkthrough at hand.

Roger Wilco, per usual, is gloating about his success in the previous Space Quest games when he’s captured by Vohaul’s goons. At the last minute, he’s saved by some mysterious men and zapped headlong into Space Quest XII, in the middle of his now desolate home planet. After figuring out where he is, Roger must thwart events happening in the future (a la Marty and Doc), save his own skin, and get back to his own time. All along, he’ll be traveling to other Space Quest games to do so, trying to avoid Vohaul’s police force.

Sadly, most of what happens during the game feels more like it belongs to Leisure Suit Larry’s universe than Roger’s (including an over the top narrator). Very few of the game’s puzzles relate to science fiction, and are often tacky and obtuse (which also describes the graphics), including some unbelievably boring arcade games (e.g. making burgers!). Worse yet, many of the puzzles require extensive backtracking; I think I spent more time walking from one place to another than I did interacting with the game world. The only interesting diversion is a trip to Ulence Flats from Space Quest 1, but this excursion lasts only a few short minutes.

When Sierra updated their engines for point’n’click play, their games in every one of their long-standing series temporarily suffered (even Police Quest 3, which I enjoyed). It was as if the designers and producers spent so much time playing with their new toy that they forgot what made their games great in the first place. Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers isn’t quite as awful as tomorrow’s entry, but the diminishing return on your IQ will be about the same after playing. I can’t recommend this game to anyone, even to fans of the series.

3: King’s Quest VII: The Princeless Bride

Year: 1994
Designer: Roberta Williams & Lorelei Shannon

Inigo Montoya: Do you hear that Fezzik? That is the sound of ultimate suffering.

Fezzik: From what?

Inigo Montoya: People playing “The Princeless Bride.”

Vizzini: Inconceivable!

While I adapted to the four-icon point’n’click style of adventure gaming, I longed for a change that was more intuitive while remaining challenging (much like the LucasArts catalogue). Well, once again Roberta Williams ushered in a new style of gaming with the single icon. The fucking thing lights up whenever you run the mouse over something important, removing virtually all the challenge and turning the game into an interactive movie. Since KQ7, some developers have been able to utilize a single icon and still make engrossing, challenging games. Not surprisingly, Roberta Williams failed spectacularly. Not surprisingly, the story is insipid.

Valanice is quite perturbed with her only daughter because Rosella has decided that marrying handsome hunks on the drop of a hat like her mother was so last plot line. Valanice taunts her daughter with stories of blind matronly love, while Rosella covers her ears and yells “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” But her mother does not comply, which drives Rosella to dive into an obviously dangerous whirlpool, most likely to commit suicide. Valanice, determined to bring back her daughter to the sophisticated world, dives in after her. Unfortunately for her, she gets dumped off in a desert, far away from the place Rosella winds up bemoaning, over and over and over, her new troll status.

Amazingly, the plot actually develops in this game.  Chapter by chapter, the player learns more objectives while maneuvering plot twists. It’s a shame that the material therein is a conglomeration of all the crap that’s ever been put into a computer game. The graphics consist of a poorly defined cartoon world with characters that are generally unpleasant to look at. Not only that, every sentient being is caricaturized to the point of skin-crawling pain, making the game devoid of the minimum amount of pathos necessary to give a shit. Puzzles range from incredibly easy to incredibly nauseous. There are even walking dead scenarios, which is ridiculous in a game that is otherwise insultingly easy. As for the sound, well, nothing memorable.

There are exactly three points during this game where I enjoyed myself:

1) The introduction, where Rosella tells her mother to bugger off.
2) The ending, and not just because the game was over.
3) The raven who spouts countless degrading and sexist insults at both Rosella and Valanice. I used some of them myself.

I was grateful the series was over after this game. Yes, there was a 3D action game that came a few years later utilizing the King’s Quest name, but the series death was already established.