Monday, October 28, 2013

"The Legacy: Realm of Terror", MS-DOS, 1992.

This is the last game that Magnetic Scrolls ever made, after perfecting their craft as the "British Infocom". The end of the line for the commercial text adventures was a baffling crossroads that no one really made it through unscathed. So from those vaunted wits we have a haunted house that doesn't know if it wants to be Myst or Doom.

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART STOPS.

MOVING CAN BE SUCH A HARROWING EXPERIENCE. ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU'RE THE SOLE INHERITOR OF THE BLOODCURDLING WINTHROP HOUSE.

LUCKY YOU. FOR THE PAST 400 YEARS, YOUR EVIL ANCESTORS HAVE BEEN PLANNING A HOUSEWARMING PARTY JUST FOR YOU. AND IF THEY HAVE IT THEIR WAY, THIS IS ONE PARTY YOU WON'T BE LEAVING.

IN THIS PIECE OF UNREAL ESTATE, YOU'LL EXPLORE UP TO 400 TERROR-RIDDEN ROOMS IN A DESPERATE STRUGGLE TO STAY ALIVE. YOU'LL ENCOUNTER PUZZLES, MAGICAL ITEMS, AND FORBIDDEN BOOKS. AND YOU'LL MEET THE HIDEOUS HOSTS WHO KNOW WHAT EVIL FORCES ARE BEHIND THIS NIGHTMARE.

CAN YOU TAKE THE TENSION? WILL YOUR MAGIC COMBAT SKILLS WORK AGAINST LOATHSOME GARGOYLES OR DEATH LEECHES? WILL YOUR NEW HOUSE DRIVE YOU COMPLETELY INSANE?

ALL YOU KNOW IS THAT TIME IS RUNNING OUT. THE HEAVENS ARE ALIGNING. AND THERE'S A LOT OF HOUSECLEANING TO BE DONE.

THE LEGACY: REALM OF TERROR FROM MICROPROSE. PROOF THAT THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME. AT LEAST NOT IN THIS WORLD.

SPINE-TINGLING GRAPHICS WILL TURN YOU CHALK-WHITE WITH HORROR!

HAIR-RAISING COMBAT WITH GROTESQUE CREATURES!

STUPEFYING STUMPERS IN SURREAL ROOMS!

You kind of get the feeling that much of this copy originated from the publisher, who just has to sell the thing, rather than from the developers who put blood and tears into the project and could speak about it passionately. (Publishers are just passionate about their ROI.) The plot probably isn't as dopey as it sounds. Why am I so special that my ancestors, the sinister Winthrops (could have tried harder for a sinister name, guys) have been plotting my downfall since before I was a gleam in my grandfather's grandfather's eye? Well, because it might make for a good game. Writers everywhere need to come up with answers for "once the nature of the situation is made obvious, why doesn't the protagonist just head out of Dodge?" The standard answer is "to rescue his girlfriend", and only slightly less common is the "it's his blood legacy, wherever he goes he takes it with him" trope.

"Unreal estate" I like -- that was a missed opportunity by the author of the Choice of Games title "Eerie Estate Agent", a unique game that actually takes the quotidian approach to haunting that this ad merely feigns.

400 rooms doesn't excite me, it concerns me. "Up to 400 rooms" tells me that many of them (maybe 395?) do not play necessary roles in the completion of the game. Filler, then? Mazes? You can't play this numbers game because Time Zone and Snowball took the cake a long time ago. "You'll encounter puzzles, magical items, and forbidden books." Is it true that the end boss has a copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover in his back pocket? That list sounds a bit bored, a bit "what are three things this game contains?" rather than "what are the three most critical elements of this game?"

Leeches are bad enough, folks. They don't have to be death leeches. That's gilding the lily. Then MicroProse asserts itself once again and demonstrates that it's lost the thread by making a baffling Wizard of Oz reference that works even less well than the mangled aphorism the ad opens with. Then it's like... guys, we have six lines left and we've run out of screen shots. What are some boring old horror cliches we can invoke to fill space? I'm actually very fond of "stupefying stumpers in surreal rooms". Note that there's no value judgement there, it's a knife that cuts both ways. I kind of hope that someday I can make a game that someone will apply that description to.