Archive for the ‘Games Gone By’ Category:

Going Back – Adam Wolfe

Source: Review Copy
Price: £4.79 for Episode 1, £14.99 for all 4 episodes.
Where To Get It: Steam

It may come as a surprise that this is a going back, considering my long held opinions on the state of Hidden Object Puzzle Adventures (Often bad with colourblindness, puzzles that make no sense in the context, extremely thin story that doesn’t have a great track record with treating women well, despite being marketed to said women for the most part), but this one, I feel, deserves it for, at the very least, being less egregious about it. In fact, I’d go so far as to say the game is enjoyable. So let’s unpack that.

This is, surprisingly, not quite how it seems. And a reason why I’m somewhat fond of Episode 1.

Adam Wolfe is an episodic hidden object puzzle adventure game… Which seems to tend more toward the adventure end than the hidden object end. Why? Because every puzzle I’ve seen so far has context, even if the puzzles, on closer examination, can seem a little silly, and a few have colourblindness problems. Can’t win ’em all. The final episode was released in November 2016, and I was approached to review it last week.

Episode 1 is a pretty strong start in many respects. The only traditional hidden object puzzle is, amusingly enough, when Adam tips out the junk from moving (Including, for some reason, a pizza box… For shame, Adam!), and this is somewhat less traditional in that it has a strict order, as Adam recalls various things. Still keep only one item, but fine, like I said, can’t win ’em all. The rest are more like forensic puzzles, in which Adam uses a mysterrrrrious watch to try and recreate crime scenes. He doesn’t even get all of them right, in the end, which is a nice touch.

There is a reason, later on, I say this should have been spotted before release. No other episode does this. Also, the file is above the lockbox. See if you can spot it.

But Episode 2, sadly, brings things back to form with a hidden object puzzle where not only are objects, unlike the other episodes, clearly a little glitched (“I’m looking for a %FILE% to do the thing”), there is a puzzle where Adam Wolfe finds a variety of objects to try and open a small lockbox, before eventually settling on the only one that works, a hammer. Adam’s an ex-cop. Which makes this hidden object puzzle, again with its strict order, all the more heartbreakingly stupid and obvious padding. Oh, and that file wasn’t visible without a guide, another common problem with HOPA puzzles.

The rest of the episodes, though, seem fine, for a HOPA… And this is where I go back to a macro-view of the game, because it’s more important to clarify what goes well, what goes the same, and what’s flawed, to highlight that, for all its flaws, Adam Wolfe is a step forward in terms of Hidden Object Puzzle Adventures. Firstly, the story, while another supernatural mystery, is specifically patterned after supernatural mystery shows, taking the episodic pacing cues from the genre, along with a more action based story which makes sense in the context. The cast gets less diverse from Episode 2 onwards, sadly, but considering how often HOPAs don’t really write characters well at all, especially women and folks of colour? I’m actually okay with this. I liked that the villains are all white men, effectively. I liked how most of the characters feel like people, and not just “Plot Device X” (I’m not saying all, but most. Some really are just there to be obstacles or exposition.)

Yes, there are still highly silly puzzle locks like this. But, again, they’re less egregious, and more often, this kind of symbol hunting is restricted to, for example, a ritual binding.

Similarly, it’s a step forward to limit the magical protagonist power that all HOPA protagonists seem to have (Never explained, never given context) to the magical end of things (Rituals, spectral signatures, bindings.) The puzzles still feel a bit silly, but they’re less silly than “Oh, hey, a drawing of a bat, that’s exactly what I’m looking for!” It’s good to see this experimentation, like “I need to collect things that make up one object”, rather than “I am going to collect all these things, and keep one object” (Which, sadly, still happens in Adam Wolfe too, but is at least sometimes given context. Baby steps.) Equally interesting to see are the QTE segments. Now, yes, QTEs can be good or bad, and Adam Wolfe’s are mostly in that middle ground of “Clunky, but entertaining”, but, again, this is a step forward. This is something new, being tried in a genre which, as a whole, prefers to crank out three a year of the same kind of thing.

Again, some of these puzzles could have been more clear (There’s rarely consequence for failure, but it does lead to some irritable clicking or mouse moving when no, you’re not told what to shoot, or you’re shown glowies when you’re actually meant to continue to shoot the bad time-wizard, or the like) and hints aren’t always helpful, but, in the end, here’s my summary of Adam Wolfe: For all that it still has some flaws of the HOPA genre at large, it experiments, it tries to emulate a genre of media and mostly succeeds, it tries to give puzzles context and change up the puzzle format and at least half succeeds, and it does enough interesting things that I am perfectly willing, despite my dislike of the HOPA genre’s stagnancy, to say that this game both deserves a playthrough, and this Going Back article. It’s not an amazing game. If it weren’t for episode 2’s highlighting of flaws and bugs that should have been noticed before release, I would say it was a “Highly enjoyable” game (In-between Good and Great, if you’re curious.) But it is by no means a bad game, and I would say that other HOPA developers, current and prospective, would want to look at Adam Wolfe and consider…

I couldn’t really leave this review without a screenshot of one of the fight sequences. Okay, yes, it’s not quite Super PunchOut. But it didn’t *feel* bad to play, and I am content with that.

“…Hey, this guy who dislikes HOPAs is saying the word ‘like’ more, maybe we should ask why?”

The Mad Welshman cannot peel hamburgers off adverts to feed his constant hunger, why should a HOPA protagonist have it any easier?

Going Back: Dungeon Hack

Goodness me, that rhymed. Lovely. Well, anyway, once again, it’s time to set the Wayback Machine, and the interesting game for this outing to the groggy times of yore is Dungeon Hack, the only official, licensed Dungeons and Dragons roguelike. Which is highly amusing when you consider how much early roguelikes (And even some modern ones) have been influenced by 2nd Edition DnD.

Dungeon Hack, released just after another title I’ve briefly dealt with, Dark Sun: Shattered Lands, uses an interface very similar to the Eye of the Beholder games. Similar enough, in fact, that I’m halfway convinced it’s the same engine, despite being developed by Dreamforge (Who, like SSI, created strategy and roleplaying titles, and did not survive 2001.) Nonetheless, it’s not the engine, so much as the visual style that impresses. There are several different level themes, all of them have a variety of different locks, tapestries, paintings, and gewgaws, and, if it weren’t for the rest of it, I would say that every run is a refreshing and different experience.

One of something like… An absolutely *silly* number of potential locks.

Unfortunately, I’m not saying that. Every run is, in fact, a tedious nightmare that often ends on dungeon level 2, due to the mechanical aspects of the design. Procedural generation has come a long way since the days of rogue, ADOM, and the like, and Dungeon Hack shows one of the weaknesses of early experiments… It’s predictable, and the difficulty curve is not so much a slope as one of the cyclopean steps of Great Cthulhu’s abode. As is often the case with roguelikes, there is a single, playable character.

But many of the monsters in AD&D are, in fact, balanced around groups taking them on. A perfect example of this is the main monstrous feature of the second dungeon level: The humble Ghoul. The Ghoul is normally a cowardly eater of the dead, picking on things it thinks it can eat, and making corpses when… Well, the corpses it normally feeds on are scarce. To aid it, it has a paralytic venom in its claws and fangs. Now, to be perfectly fair to the developers of Dungeon Hack, unlike in Eye of the Beholder, when your character is paralysed, they can still move (but not attack or use items), whereas if a mass paralyse from a Beholder hit in EoB 1’s later levels, you were pretty much dead.

The problem arises, then, from the fact that it’s corridors… And rooms. And corridors predominate. Corridors in which the other monster type that always inhabits the second level, the Troglodyte (in 2E, a stronger, but less intelligent relative of the lizardman) are very likely to ambush someone who hasn’t cleared the way behind them, and, even then, may get surprised by a respawn. As a Mage, you may just about have fireball at this point (Requiring a rest after every cast to regain it… We’ll come back to resting), as a warrior, you don’t really have any recourse except that old first person RPG technique of the sideways shuffle (Exploiting the AI in… Er… A room… To, er…Well, crap, that sort of invalidates it in a large set of situations, doesn’t it?), and it’s only as a Priest that you get… Turn Undead. Which, on the one hand, you have an infinite supply of. On the other, it’s not guaranteed to work, and you’re not guaranteed to hit on the attack that will break the Ghoul out of its “OhGodsAHolySymbolRunRunRun” mode Turn Undead tends to put it in.

Ghouls. There are many words I have to say about a lone adventurer fighting even small groups of ghouls. The vast majority of it is unprintable, even here.

So yeah, the difficulty’s a little sharp. Adding to this tedium is the predictability of monsters. Yes, you will always encounter Ghouls and Troglodytes on level 2. Just as you will always encounter Goblins and Orcs on level 1, with only the occasional Out of Depth monster to liven things up… Usually in a rather fatal manner.

And then, there are the keys. I mentioned before that there are a variety of different locks, and hoo boy, does the game use as many as it can. Each locked door has a specific key type. I’ve never encountered a situation where the key was behind a door, but each level becomes a case of three things: A sweep and clear, not unlike those annoying missions in Hero Quest and Space Crusade (Remember those?) where the victory condition was “Kill everything”; A hunt for various keys (Ice keys, flower keys, gold keys, chrome keys, platinum keys, bone keys, missing bull horns… The list is quite large); And, another staple of first person games and DnD RPGs of the time, either being a Dwarf, able to sense secret doors, or looking at the map, noticing large empty spaces, and wondering which of the walls you’re going to try and walk into will, in fact, turn out to be illusory.

Fun! It’s interesting to look at a game like this, because it has a lavish (if overacted) introductory cutscene (Involving the sorceress/demigod/secret deity… I forget which… Who sends you on the quest, and Sir Not Appearing In This Game, possibly the biggest, dumbest adventurer I’ve seen since Lands of Lore’s Conrad “The Scones Are Still Intact” McAdventurerson), a lot of thought put into a lot of locks and tapestries and statuary and fun things that mostly don’t have any bearing beyond looking pretty (Which I approve of), and yet… Once you get past that, there’s almost no balance, a steep difficulty spike on the 2nd level, and even less context than Angband or Nethack, relative contemporaries (1990 and 1987-2015.)

…I smell a cutscene, VO so fine!

Would I recommend playing it for enjoyment? Oh, Mystra, no! Would I, however, encourage budding developers to look at it critically? If you’re into procgen, licensed RPGs, and step/tile-based first person RPGs, yes. Because it is, to me, interesting to examine. Even if the examination can be… Rather painful.

I’ll get you, Ghouls. And your little frogs, too…

Going Back: Antichamber

Regardless of your position on the worth, correctness, or validity of Art Games, Antichamber is a game I would defend as “An Art Game” to the death. It is, in its sense, art. It is most definitely a game, with challenges, obstacles, and mechanics. And it is a utopian game.

Wait, what the hell is a utopian game when it’s at home? Read on, and I’ll try to explain.

There's a lady who knows... All these puzzles are gold... And she's sung in the title of the puzzle.

There’s a lady who knows… All these puzzles are gold… And she’s sung in the title of the puzzle.

Antichamber is a game without a fail state beyond you giving up. Now before you think that’s boring, let me point out that that doesn’t mean you’re not going to fail to solve a puzzle. But you’re not only always going to be able to have another go, you’ll be able to travel between most puzzles without a care in the world. Nothing is going to kill you. Nothing is telling you you’re shit at the game. In fact, quite the opposite: The game’s signposts are basically life advice, generally quite chill life advice at that. And it’s often pertinent. For example, there’s a bridge of sorts, and the signpost for both crossing it successfully, and falling off it reference a tightrope. The game shows you what happens if you take that bridge too quickly beforehand, and what doesn’t happen if you take it slowly (It won’t disappear from under you unless you deliberately step off it or speed up at the wrong time), so… It’s basically an analogy for tightrope walking, which is generally best done at a relatively sedentary pace. Another has a sheep leaping off a cliff, after you followed an instruction to, er… Jump off a cliff. Something something cliff something something everyone else something? I’m sure, if you’ve even encountered fictional parents, you can fill in the something somethings there. It’s a thing parents like to say.

Antichamber owes a lot to… Well, a lot of things. Life is what the game is an analogy for, but it owes bits and bobs to Portal (As it uses a sort of non-violent, puzzle solving “weapon” with multiple functions unlocked as the game goes by), to M C Escher (As it plays with perspective, direction, and space being a bit bendier than usual), and to logic puzzles (As everything has internally consistent rules, and so you can deduce, reasonably, how doing thing A will affect problem B with at least good accuracy most of the time.) You are… Well, you, really. And you’re in a maze. A maze that is life. You start with no tools, no knowledge, and a fleeting sense that you don’t have enough time (Because, at first, it appears you are on a timer, and it’s not a long one for a sprawling puzzle game.) As the game goes on, you accrue knowledge (Certain walls go away when you do one thing, this part of the maze acts like this), tools (One of four cube guns, each one adding an ability to your arsenal, from the ability to take individual cubes and put them somewhere else, to the ability to make nigh infinite cubes, to the ability to make walls of cubes, moving them around), and, along the way, you discover… That actually, you can take the game at your own pace. Just like life, Antichamber is not a race to the end. Stop. Enjoy the flowers. Or, in this case, a picture of a man with his trousers off, and the associated life lesson.

You may be mistaken for thinking this is an easy puzzle. It still has challenge. Because everything except those crates is lava. To that brick.

You may be mistaken for thinking this is an easy puzzle. It still has challenge. Because everything except those crates is lava. To that brick.

The thing being, of course, that you are, in this game, trying to get to the end. The game tells you what a bad idea it is to try and race there. It shows you little easter eggs, misdirects you, tries to slow you down with increasingly more skill intensive puzzles… But you’re curious. There is something that eats light. Something to which doors are no obstacle. Something which seemingly eludes you at every turn. And… When you catch it… It’s all over. That’s right… The game ends, and oblivion results. That something, that nebulous, slightly ominous thing you’ve been chasing for no reason you can determine beyond the goal… Is death.

It’s rather clever. But it doesn’t stop there. Everywhere you look, there aren’t only puzzles involving perspective, there’s the overriding message that hey, maybe… Just maybe… If you look at things from a different viewpoint than the one you’re used to, think sideways? Things will go better for you. You’ll expand your mind. You won’t only get better at the game, you’ll get better at being you. It’s a positive message. In fact, the only negative messages in the game are that you shouldn’t really hurry (The antithesis of many games), and that you won’t get through things consistently by just bulling your way through (And you won’t.) Like I said, utopian. No danger unless you actively seek it out. No challenge that you have to accept (There’s often another way until near the end, when your choices narrow due to… Well, having solved everything else!), and you can always, always go somewhere else… Maybe play with an old puzzle just for the heck of it. You just have to remember how to get there.

It's kind of clever, really. Normally, this room is actually quite well lit.

It’s kind of clever, really. Normally, this room is actually quite well lit.

Finally, it’s tightly designed. There is no HUD. The options, as well as the map and your collection of signposts are all in a single, easy to return to location, and whenever a new mechanic is to be introduced, you can guarantee something’s going to either be nearby to show you how it works, or you’re going to come across something that teaches you sooner or later. Good example, Eye Walls. Eye Walls are terrible at staring contests, fall asleep, and vanish when you stare at them for a time (The time being dependent on the door.) There’s a crossroads at one point early in the game, a door that won’t open if you look at it, and directly opposite that door? An Eye Wall. Walking slowly backwards, you’re guaranteed to see it close. Or, another, sharper example happens when you enter a room with a tantalising hole in the ceiling. Inside the hole? “Don’t Look Down.”

Well… Whyever no- AAAA EYE AAAAAAA FALLING AAA WHERE DID THE FLOOR GO?

And then you land harmlessly somewhere new. Because the game’s cool like that. And you’ve learned a new thing.

So, Antichamber is tightly designed around a theme. Good. It imitates life (Via analogy). Good. It is, indisputably, a game. Cool.

So it’s an art game. And it’s well worth checking out.

Going Back: Quantum Rush – Champions

As you may have noticed, Future Racing games are sort of a passion of mine. Which made Quantum Rush: Champions (Previously Quantum Rush Online) such a disappointment. In discussing why, we have to compare it to a close cousin, Wipeout Fusion, one of the more divisive games in possibly the biggest ex future racing franchise out there (Apart from F-Zero, yes, I know F-Zero exists, shush.)

Weaponry, How Not To Do It

This is how quickly you can die in Fusion. On the first track.

Both Wipeout Fusion and Quantum Rush: Champions erred in dealing with weaponry, albeit in different ways. In Wipeout Fusion’s case, the weapons were, in many cases, too good. Many weapons, including missiles, fired both backwards and forwards, and, throughout the game, it’s perfectly possible to explode (losing you the race) in the first fifteen seconds. Not helping is the fact that, due to sloppy coding, some of the weapons appear to work both ways, but… Actually don’t. And it’s somewhat difficult to tell. But one thing that Fusion did relatively well was that weapon placement was considered. Some tracks didn’t have as many missiles (Which do not corner well), some don’t have many plasma bolts (Which can be murderous when used in the right way)… There’s a sort of balance, although it’s not obvious. Challenges and deathmatch further refined this. Can you score enough kills using only rockets and missiles? How about quakes and shields alone?

Quantum Rush, however, has the same weapon placement for all its game modes, which doesn’t actually work. If you want someone dead in a “kill target” mission, I can guarantee you that over two thirds of the pickups still on the track are largely useless. Not helping are Quantum Rush’s own bugs, which include a weapon that, for the most part, just doesn’t seem to work: The gravity shockwave. How it’s meant to work is that it shoves racers away from the vehicle… But 95% of the time, it doesn’t do a damn thing, taking up valuable space that another weapon could use.

Track Design

TemteshBay1

Both Fusion and Quantum Rush, in slightly different ways, suffer from the same problems, and the same good ideas let down by poor execution. Both, for example, have multiple potential paths through the track, and, unlike some Future Racers I could name, none of these paths are technically bad. But in both games, some of these paths are poorly signposted visually, and some of these paths are cluttered to the point of frustration. In Fusion, this is most seen in Temtesh Bay, a track which has bulkhead doors that open microseconds before you actually hit them, a cave segment with hard to navigate rock formations, and some frankly silly track narrowing. In Quantum Rush: Champions, you see similar design flaws in the Airport, with a side path filled with obstructions and narrowings in the form of cargo-plane bays and large shipping crates. Worse, the part that isn’t a shortcut is a hard right where your eyes are telling you to go ahead.

AirportQRC

This is approximately a third of a second before I end up going to the left, the alternate path. A second before that, you can’t see that turnoff.

Unlike Quantum Rush: Champions, however, the AI in Fusion will generally split their efforts between paths… While the QRC craft will, most of the time, stick to the main path. As already mentioned, tracks are used with no changes for other game modes, and this can hurt in the case of, say, boss battles, where the AI will always take a path, and you taking the other will lose you valuable time. More on time in QRC in a short while…

Upgrades

Courtesy of Wipeout Central, this is the top tier FEISAR. Like many of its compatriots, it is 90% gunmetal grey and grunge.

Courtesy of Wipeout Central, this is the top tier FEISAR. Like many of its compatriots, it is 90% gunmetal grey and grunge.

Wipeout Fusion, it must be said, mostly sinned in this category due to visual design and grind. Upgrading craft in Fusion requires money, which requires racing tracks over… And over… And over again (Although not necessarily in the craft you want to upgrade), started as somewhat crappy versions of what they were meant to be, and, eventually, went from not-so-great craft with some interesting designs, to at least fairly average craft with some interesting designs, to good craft with some mind-bendingly dull designs, usually involving gunmetal grey. Quantum Rush: Champions, however, does… Odd things. Upgrades are rewards for earning medals… But even in higher tiers, there just aren’t that many upgrades, and they become progressively harder to unlock as you go on. What are you mostly unlocking? Customisation options, only one half of which (The colours) stay between “Tiers” of craft. And they, also, require unlocking through medals.

It took something like 12 medals to get even this far. The pattern was in Tier 1, but had to be re-earned for Tier 2. The colour is the only one I have been able to unlock to this day.

It took something like 12 medals to get even this far. The pattern was in Tier 1, but had to be re-earned for Tier 2. The colour is the only one I have been able to unlock to this day.

For context, originally, QRC was Quantum Rush: Online, and was going to be a purely multiplayer Future Racer with an F2P model. It had a somewhat nice garage. It had the customisation be unlocked by buying it, rather than medals, although you earned money, obviously, by racing. Upgrades, similarly, were on a monetary basis. And all of this, along with the multiplayer (Which had mostly been going alright) was thrown out when Quantum Rush: Champions was announced. This was a mind blowing decision, to throw the baby out with the bath water, and the game suffered for it, as, since unlocks appear to be based on number of medals, you can find yourself being rewarded for slogging through a difficult challenge and getting gold with… Er… Blue #3. Thanks for the socks, Grandma QRC, but I really wanted that better armour, y’know? It doesn’t help that the customisation options, in a strange funhouse-mirror fashion to Fusion, start dull. Three shades of gray, in one colour. And every Tier, you have to unlock skin patterns all over again.

Difficulty

Difficulty is somewhat erratic in both QRC and Fusion, but in Fusion, at least, the main causes are obvious: The tracks and the weapons. For your first track in a tournament, you could be driving through the icy Mandrashee, a relatively simple track with some quirks, and the very next track is… The dreaded Alca Vexus, home of narrow tracks, multiple chicanes and hidden corners, and, in at least one case, a broken track.

But Wipeout Fusion didn’t require you to have a perfect racing line to get gold. Nor a good enough computer. By contrast, Quantum Rush: Champions gets harder if your computer isn’t recommended specs, and Time Trial… Requires an almost perfect line to get gold. Yes, I would like a challenge. I do not, however, want to be locked out of content because you decided “Perfect line or go home” is a good idea in the first tier of gameplay. And then there are the boss fights and “Target Enemy” modes. Target Enemy is bad enough, because it generally requires a kill a minute of (by Tier 2) up to 3 specific enemies, with, er… The same power up locations as a race would have. Now imagine that, while it’s only one specific target, it’s a vehicle of your class from the next tier up, with special abilities such as being able to drain shields from fellow racers, or leaving a burning trail behind them that makes them overheat. Then give it similar harsh timing (1 minute 30 is silver to kill the Tier 1 boss for NMW)

There’s a lot more I could say about Quantum Rush: Champions, and how GameArt Studio have dealt with the situation, or, more accurately, haven’t… But instead, I’m just going to mention two things. Firstly, Quantum Rush: Champions was ported to the XBOne moderately recently, and from what I can gather, critical reception was no less frosty than on the PC. Secondly, and I want developers to note this one…

MaaaaaybeAProblem

…Global achievement stats like this… This is a warning sign. This is a warning sign that either you have done something wrong with achievements and unlocks, or you have done something wrong with playability and/or difficulty.

Listen to said warning signs.

Going Back: Black Dahlia

Mention the Black Dahlia murder, and many games players will point at LA Noire. Mention the game of the same name, however, and most often, you will get a blank stare. The rest of the time, a scream of sheer, unadulterated rage.

Black Dahlia, you see, is a game that, while mostly forgotten unjustly, had one element to it that angered many of its players beyond measure: The puzzles. Which, for an FMV adventure game at the tail end of the FMV heyday (1998, to be exact), was a sales killer.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

I was one of those original sales. Now, before we begin talking about why this is worth a Going Back, let’s mention just two numbers. Eight CDs. 4.6 Gb of game. In 1998. Of course, even a “full install” back in the day would be under 500 Mb. But it’s still a pretty mind boggling number. Now let’s go into why it’s mostly a game that should be recalled.

Firstly, for its silly premise (Involving the Thule Society, the Torso Murders, the Black Dahlia murder of Elizabeth Short, and, as you might expect, occult shenanigans linking them all), the writing and the acting sells the game. It was a selling point of the game that Dennis Hopper and Teri Garr were both acting in it (And, in a relative rarity for productions like this, even the extras are named in the manual), and they were supported by actors who, while relatively unheard of, were definitely not unskilled, such as Dan Frezza (Utah Shakespeare Company), Bradley Moniz, Daniel Whelan, and Colette Schreiber. You forget its silly, because, for the majority of the game, the actors and actresses are playing their roles very well. All I’ll say about the story is that it starts with you as a new investigator for the underfunded and underdeveloped COI, checking out a somewhat dubious report of Fifth Columnists in the area, and ends with the fate of the world in your hands.

Darren Eliker really sells the role of Jim Pearson. Poor feller.

Darren Eliker really sells the role of Jim Pearson. Poor feller.

Secondly, it had an interesting system where you could not only examine objects, but move them around in their containers, such as a notepad in your desk that can be shifted back to reveal a service revolver (Itself able to be opened.) It had quite a few locations, and used not only hotspots, but items in conversation.

There are, however, two mood killers for anyone wishing to play the game today: It’s difficult to run on modern systems (and, in fact, nigh impossible if you want to run it flawlessly), and the game’s difficulty could best be described as hellish. Here’s some examples to give you some idea, all from the first chapter (Disc 1 of 8).

You’ve talked to everybody, including the irascible Henry Finster, your superior (Walter Donovan, head of the COI at the time, and later OSS), the detective working on the Torso Murders cases (Peter Meryllo), and a smarmy FBI agent called Winslow. But you’ve run into a brick wall. The game’s given you enough clues that you have a blacklist of possibly less-than-loyal German-Americans, but, due to the rivalry between Donovan and then head of the FBI J. Edgar Hoover, the damn thing’s encrypted and nobody’s given you the key. The key to cracking the code is in your office. But to get there, you need to find the gun in your desk drawer (Which you won’t find unless you’re clicking and dragging everything that you can interact with), open up the handle (Which, again, you won’t find unless you realise you can do that in your inventory), use the key to open a locked cabinet in your room, and copy the notes written down on paper, because the in-game note system isn’t going to help you here, buddy.

Infamously, not only is this puzzle not meant to be solved, a bug means the game is unwinnable if you try before you're meant to.

Infamously, not only is this puzzle not meant to be solved when you find it, a bug means the game is unwinnable if you try before you’re meant to.

The code is quite simple, once you realise what it’s doing. But the game doesn’t exactly help in letting you know what it’s doing, as the two sheets cannot be read together, and both have their red herrings. This one puzzle is the gatekeeper to… The rest of the plot. Equally innocuous is the shadow on your office light, only seen when you flick on your office lights, and look up. That shadow… Is important, and checking that is vital. There aren’t, to my knowledge, any truly silly puzzles (Along the order of the infamous Cat Hair Moustache of the Gabriel Knight series), but many of them are exactly this tough to discover, let alone solve. Of course, the manual helps you with a few of these early (but vital) tasks, but who reads the manual, eh?

Strangely, despite this? I’d still say the game is worth it, and due a re-release on GOG or the like. But who would be the ones behind such a game? Who would be the ones who made this intriguing, if sometimes maddening game? Why, it would be Take 2 Interactive.

I remember my reaction to this scene. "Is she flirting with him? She's flirting with him! ... She's flirting with him, and he's not noticing. Idiot."

I remember my reaction to this scene. “Is she flirting with him? She’s flirting with him! … She’s flirting with him, and he’s not noticing. Idiot.”

But you’d know them, in the modern day, as 2K Games.

The Mad Welshman also sees spies everywhere. Fifth columnists, trying to ruin his sense of fun by sending him derivative AAA games. It’s a menace…