Friday, October 26, 2012

"Warlock", 1994.

Though I ran up against a "what do I do next?" wall relatively quickly, I admired this game and its lush production values, figuring it must have been a tie-in to some huge movie I'd just somehow managed to miss hearing about. Well, I did miss hearing about it, but thanks to this ad campaign, it may in fact be a case of a video game being better-known than the movie it licensed. (The filmmakers should have paid them for the favour, but things working out that way would be ... highly unorthodox.
"Magical pick-ups and ancestral spells unleash chaotic fury!"

ONE MUST BE OF PURE MIND AND HEART TO VANQUISH THE WARLOCK'S EVIL MASTER!
DEFEAT THE UNDEAD AND YE SHALL BE ALLOWED TO PASS!
BEWARE DEMONS DEEP WITHIN THE DUNGEON'S BOWELS!
SURVIVAL DEPENDS ON MASTERING MANY SPELLS!

"Part strategy, part action! Warlock conjures an unbeatable spell!!!"

ENTER THE ARENA AND DO BATTLE AS A FIERCE MINOTAUR!
HAUNTING MELODIES STIR UNHOLY APPARITIONS!

"Bored of just playing roles... Warlock delivers horrific action!"

AVOID THE WINGED DRAGON'S FIERY BREATH!

BEWARE THE ULTIMATE EVIL!
WARLOCK

BASED ON THE HIT MOVIE!

The once in a millennium confrontation is upon you! Using the powerful spells and potions entrusted to you by your Druid ancestors, battle gargoyles, the Undead, fire-breathing dragons... and if you survive, the all-powerful Warlock! Combining strategy, intuition, and sorcery, you must be the first to locate six ancient runestones - and save all creation from unraveling! Afraid? He already knows that.

The evil unfolds... (516) 624-9300
Please get permission from whoever pays the phone bill before calling the above number

CompuServe
(GO WARLOCK)

GET TO KNOW YOUR ENEMY THROUGH GAME CLIPS, SOUND BYTES, SCREEN SHOTS AND MORE IN THE WARLOCK: EVIL ON-LINE PROMOTION!

Who do you think the quotes are from? No review source given to, uh, qualify them, so we must assume they're straight from the mouth of the game's producer. "Unmitigated genius!" -- my mom. Next... you just don't get to command me to be of PURE MIND and then talk about the DUNGEON'S BOWELS immediately after. I like the RPG slam of "just playing roles" when everyone knows platform games offer much deeper gameplay, right? Then the well must have been starting to run dry for the exhaustively redundant "WINGED DRAGON'S FIERY BREATH". Dragons are assumed to have wings, and their breath is assumed to be fiery... and it's common sense that both should be avoided. "THIS GAME CONTAINS A DRAGON" isn't as punchy, admittedly. (Then they go back and revisit this territory, naming "fire-breathing dragons" among the game's enemies. From the people who brought you "blood-sucking vampires", "flesh-petrifying gorgons" and "uncultured barbarians"!)

Apparently the Warlock peered into his scrying pool and divined that this movie would be a hit... then this ad campaign fell through a portal into an alternate dimension, ours. If the confrontation is once in a millennium then we could be hit with a sequel at any time.

I must confess to being more than a little curious regarding what sounds could be heard on the other end of the apparently-pricey hotline. How does an expensive phone conversation convince someone to shell out further for a game? Hint lines are where most of the telephonic money was made at this time.

It's hard to imagine a time when the Web was considered less worthy a staging ground for an online (or OK, their stodgy "on-line") presence than CompuServe, but that's why history, especially tech history, is so interesting... it's so mercurial! (Also: "sound bytes"? I saw what you're trying to do there...)

Curiously, this game had another print ad that was virtually identical to it, but varied in a couple of unimportant regards.

Here the bottom blurb now reads
JUDGE DREDD THE VIDEO GAME JUNE '95
... since I suppose there's nothing quite like chasing a blockbuster failure with some hair of the dog. Also you can see that though all of the advertising copy reads identically, some of its margins have been shuffled slightly, leading to line-breaks in new places for reasons that are difficult to hypothesize. "OK, our last ad wasn't successful, but we all agree the text was gold. The thing keeping us from moving units must be a subtle layout problem that we can overcome with a minor tweak..."

Sometimes I come across as harder than I mean to in order to come up with commentary -- the meat of my own blog. I must confess that, had I owned a SNES, and were I the type to purchase new games solely based on advertising (rather than a shrewd and patient consumer who pores over reviews and waits for diminishing-demand price drops), these ads may have convinced me to pick up the cartridge.