SSPA – The Lawnmower Man

Notice: Apologies for the delay in reviews this last month. Things should be moving at a steady pace once again with weekly Saturday reviews.

A book cover, movie poster, or game box art can say a lot about what you can expect from a product. It can also say absolutely nothing at all. While the old adage is true, you can’t judge a book by its cover, that won’t stop some covers from having an impact. A book cover can affect how you imagine the world described within, a movie poster can set your expectations for what you’re about to see, and sometimes a game’s box art can leave you utterly dumbfounded. Enter 1992’s The Lawnmower Man.

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SSPA – Lode Runner 3D

A long time ago, there was an old apple computer in my house with some pre-loaded software on it. It had solitaire, a jigsaw puzzle program, and an old adventure game called Power Pete. But the program that stuck with me the most from that machine was Lode Runner: The Legend Returns. Lode Runner was a series of puzzle platformer games by Brøderbund, wherein you played as a man delving into a vast series of mines to find and/or steal gold. The Legend Returns was a sequel, in which you play as Jake Peril, searching through the subterranean caverns of the Earth to steal gold from the Mad Monks, in an effort to escape the dying planet. The game was colorful, challenging and creative. In addition to over one hundred single player and multiplayer levels, the game included a very diverse level editor that let you make your own crazy stages.

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SSPA – Indigo Prophecy

There are some game designers out there that have extraordinary visions for new games. Some of them have undertaken ambitious projects that put them under intense strain, like Jordan Mechner (Prince of Persia) and Eric Chahi (Out of this World), both of whom made games with very small teams and limited resources. Then there are those with greater resources that push the envelope with big budget titles like Ken Levine (BioShock) and Cliff Bleszinski (Gears of War). However there are also those whose vision exceeds practicality. Probably the most well known developer like this is Peter Molyneux, who is notorious for heading projects that promise the stars, but a ultimately hindered by what is feasibly possible with that is available. This is not to say that all these projects end in disaster. The original Fable, although not as grandiose as promised, was still an enjoyable adventure game and Black & White, a simulation game similar to Sid Mier’s Civilization, was given critical acclaim at release.

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SSPA – Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Almost every film version of Bram Stoker’s classic novel Dracula has deemed it necessary to change major elements of the plot. The original Universal film changed names, character motives, and omitted major events. The Hammer film Horror of Dracula remained closer to the book, but still changed major plot points and names. Some more recent pictures have deliberately set out to change things in order to keep the story fresh, such as Dracula 2000, in which the Count is really Judas Iscariot, cursed by god to live forever, or Dracula Untold, wherein Dracula is really Vlad Tepes, a Romanian nobleman who willingly took on the vampire curse to save his people.

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SSPA – Mischief Makers

The Nintendo 64 and the PlayStation give us some of the greatest games of all time. With systems capable of using full 3D, everyone wanted to take advantage of it. Nintendo managed to very smoothly transition some of their best franchises to 3D, with titles like Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Sony came in strong with brand new franchises, like Crash Bandicoot and Oddworld. 3D gaming was revolutionary, and the sixth console generation was in instrumental step in forming the groundwork for later great console games. But lost in the flood of 3D titles was the potential for advanced 2D gaming.

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SSPA – Congo: The Lost City of Zinj

Author Michael Crichton often dabbled in other skills besides writing. He directed the sci-fi film Westworld in 1973, and later the period piece The Great Train Robbery in ’79. In the early 80’s, Crichton started to get interested in computer games. He taught himself basic, and after teaming up with a programmer and artist, set about designing an adventure game around his recently released jungle adventure novel Congo. Unfortunately for the project, Crichton did not realize that he had already sold the rights to the novel and could not base their game on it. After some hasty tweaks and alterations, Crichton and his team released Amazon. In essence it is the same story as Congo, but with a change of setting, some characters renamed, and set pieces altered.

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SSPA – Dune

I’ve often thought that the genre of videogames tailor made for expansive storytelling was the point and click adventure. In its heyday, adventure games were some of the most imaginative games around. They could take a player to very imaginative places and involve them in the progression of a story much more intimately than most action games. Games from Sierra and Lucas Arts could tell deep or shallow stories with superb writing in games like King’s Quest and Grim Fandango, Cyan Worlds produced the mind-bending settings of the Myst series, and Tell-Tale Games has used the medium to expand on the stories of popular franchises like The Walking Dead and Batman. These games have shown the versatility and expanded the story telling abilities of the genre through the years.

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