Whaling log

All of the games that I cover on this blog can be grouped into one of two categories. First are the "whales," which are all of the games that had a minimum of 30 votes on Mobygames at the time that I started this project, plus any of personal interest, minus any that I have already played to death or declined to play for whatever reason.

Second is any "notable" predecessors to whales, which I identify and play through prior to playing each. I detail the process more here.

This page is a partial list of the games covered. Whales are sorted in rough chronological order, and non-whale ancestors are grouped under their corresponding whale. Rather than post the entire list, which has nearly 3000 games on it, I've chosen to add batches of upcoming titles to this page as I work my way through to them.



Breakout [P1] [P2]
    Ancestors: SpaceWar

Computer Space

Magnavox Odyssey

Pong and others


    Ancestors: Night Driver, Datsun 280 ZZZap



Space Invaders
    Ancestor: Gun Fight

Super Breakout
    Ancestors: Air-Sea Battle

Starship 1, Star Ship

Indy 500

Blockade, Surround


Slot Racers


Adventureland [P1] [P2]
    Ancestors: Adventure

Adventure 350 [P1] [P2] [P3] [P4]

Pirate Adventure

Telengard [P1] [P2]
    Ancestors: pedit5 [P1] [P2] [P3]

dnd [P1] [P2] [P3] [P4] [P5] [P6] [P7] [P8] [P9]

DND [P1] [P2] [P3] [P4]

Dungeon Campaign
    Ancestor: Dragon Maze

Ahab GABs about 1962-1978


Mission Impossible

Akalabeth: World of Doom [P1] [P2]
    Ancestor: DND-1

    Ancestor: Gee Bee

    Ancestors: Video Pinball

Lunar, Moonlander, Lunar Lander

3-D Tic-Tac-Toe
    Ancestor: Polo

Star Raiders
    Ancestor: Star Trek

Intermission: 1979/1980


A Day at Funspot, NH

Space Invaders (VCS)

Adventure (VCS)

Missile Command


Zork I [P1] [P2] [P3]
     Ancestor: Zork [P1] [P2] [P3] [P4] [P5] [P6] [P7] [P8]


Wizard and the Princess [P1] [P2]
     Ancestor: Mystery House

Mission Asteroid

Rogue [P1] [P2] [P3] [P4] [P5]

Wizard of Wor 

Skipped game:

Ahab GABs about 1979-1980

Intermission: 1980/1981



Super Cobra

    Ancestors: Kamikaze, Scramble

Missile Command (VCS)


Asteroids (VCS)

    Ancestors: Boxing, Fishing Derby, Avalanche

Donkey Kong
    Ancestors: Space Fever, Sheriff, Radar Scope, Game & Watch: Ball


Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord [P1] [P2] [P3] [P4] [P5] [P6] [P7] [P8]
    Ancestors: Conquest, Empire III

Empire IV

Galactic Attack

Moria [P1] [P2] [P3]




Ultima [P1] [P2] [P3]



Zork II [P1] [P2]

    Ancestors: Robot Bowl, Circus, Targ

Castle Wolfenstein
    Ancestors: Maze Game, Escape! [P1] [P2]


The Demon's Forge

Football Manager

Galaxy [P1] [P2] [P3]
    Ancestors: B-1 Nuclear Bomber

Midway Campaign


Ms. Pac-Man
    Ancestor: Super Missile Attack

Softporn Adventure

Ulysses and the Golden Fleece [P1] [P2]
     Ancestors: The Cranson Manor Adventure, Cranston Manor

      Ancestors: Ozma Wars, Sasuke Vs Commander

Skipped game:

Intermission: 1981/1982 + Ahab GABs about 1981


    Ancestors: Depthcharge, Deep Scan, Carnival, Space Fury, Turbo

Demon Attack

Pac-Man (VCS)

Robotron: 2084

Deadline [P1] [P2]

Dig Dug

Yars' Revenge
     Ancestors: Embargo, Space Wars, Starhawk, Armor Attack, Star Castle

    Ancestors: Third Planet, Stratovox

Moon Patrol
    Ancestors: Sky Chuter, WW III

Atlantis, Cosmic Ark
    Ancestors: Colony 7, Space Zap

Pole Position

Donkey Kong Junior

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back


Jungle King

Zork III [P1] [P2]

Ultima II: The Revenge of the Enchantress [P1] [P2] [P3] [P4] [P5] [P6] [P7]

    Ancestors: Space Fighter Mark II, Astro Fighter, Lock 'n' Chase

Starcross [P1] [P2]

Smurf: Rescue in Gargamel's Castle


Westward Ho (aka Custer's Revenge)


Mr. Do!
    Ancestors: Galaxy Wars, Cosmic Alien, Space Panic, Cosmic Avenger

Lady Bug

    Ancestors: Galactic Empire

Galactic Trader

Galactic Revolution

David's Midnight Magic, A.E.

Front Line


Pinball Construction Set 
    Ancestors: Penny Arcade

Raster Blaster

Night Mission Pinball
    Ancestor: Flight Simulator

Time Pilot
    Ancestor: Bosconian

Buck Rogers: Planet of Zoom

    Ancestor: Video Pinball (VCS)

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial


River Raid



Andes Attack, Gridrunner
    Ancestors: Centipede (ZX81), 3D! 3D!

The Hobbit [P1] [P2] [P3] [P4] [P5]

Miner 2049er
     Ancestor: Attack Force

    Ancestor: Sabotage

Strip Poker: A Sizzling Game of Chance


Wizardry II: The Knight of Diamonds [P1] [P2] [P3] [P4] [P5] [P6]

Andromeda Conquest

Skipped game:

Intermission: 1982/1983


Ms. Pac-Man (VCS)

Congo Bongo


Jumpman [P1] [P2]
    Ancestors: Starfleet Orion [P1] [P2]

Dunjonquest: Temple of Apshai [P1] [P2] [P3]

Dunjonquest: The Datestones of Ryn

Dunjonquest: Morloc's Tower

Dunjonquest: Hellfire Warrior [P1] [P2] [P3]

Starquest: Rescue at Rigel

Starquest: Star Warrior

Dunjonquest: Upper Reaches of Apshai

The Keys of Acheron

Crush, Crumble, and Chomp!


Suspended [P1] [P2]
    Ancestors: Oo-Topos [P1] [P2] [P3]

Cyborg [P1] [P2]

Moria (Roguelike) [P1] [P2] [P3] [P4] [P5] [P6]

Keystone Kapers
    Ancestor: Space Jockey

     Ancestors: The Pit, Blueprint

Star Wars

The Witness

The Portopia Serial Murder Case
    Ancestor: Door Door

Crystal Castles

Elevator Action

Lode Runner [P1] [P2] [P3] [P4]
    Ancestor: Miner

Manic Miner
    Ancestor: Styx

Planetfall [P1] [P2]

Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Junior, Popeye (Famicom)

Mario Bros.

Enchanter [P1] [P2]

Jr. Pac-Man

The Activision Decathlon

Ultima III: Exodus [P1] [P2] [P3] [P4] [P5] [P6] [P7]


Mr. Do's Castle

Infidel [P1] [P2]

Donkey Kong 3

Hard Hat Mack

Reach for the Stars [P1] [P2] [P3] [P4]
    Ancestors: Computer Bismarck

Computer Conflict

The Battle of Shiloh

The Battle of the Bulge: Tigers in the Snow

Computer Quarterback

Cartels & Cutthroat$

Computer Baseball

President Elect

Battle for Normandy

M.U.L.E. [P1] [P2]
    Ancestors: Hamurabi

Santa Paravia and Fiumaccio

Oil's Well
    Ancestor: Anteater

Track & Field

    Ancestor: Microsoft Olympic Decathlon

Space Shuttle: A Journey into Space 

Archon: The Light and the Dark
    Ancestor: Tax Dodge

Spy Hunter

10-Yard Fight

Antarctic Adventure

B.C.'s Quest for Tires
    Ancestor: Evolution



Thunder Force
    Ancestor: Snake & Snake

Alley Cat

    Ancestors: Shamus

Salmon Run, Necromancer

Chuckie Egg

    Ancestor: Floppy Frenzy

One on One: Dr. J vs. Larry Bird

Wizardry III: Legacy of Llylgamyn [P1] [P2] [P3] [P4] [P5] [P6] [P7] [P8] [P9] [P10]

Of Commodore 64 and ColecoVision

Skipped games:
    Dragon's Lair
    Space Ace

Intermission: 1983/1984


The Black Onyx [P1] [P2] [P3] [P4]

Tag Team Wrestling
    Ancestor: Minky Monkey


Sorcerer [P1] [P2]

Will Harvey's Music Construction Set
    Ancestor: Lancaster

Boulder Dash
    Ancestor: Space Chase, Astro Chase

    Ancestor: Pinball (Game & Watch)

Ballblazer, Rescue on Fractalus!


Jet Set Willy [P1] [P2]

SunDog: Frozen Legacy [P1] [P2] [P3] [P4] [P5]

Bruce Lee
    Ancestors: The Sands of Egypt

O'Riley's Mine

The Lords of Midnight [P1] [P2] [P3]
    Ancestors: Games Pack 1, Shadowfax, Siege


The Seven Cities of Gold [P1] [P2] [P3]

King's Quest [P1] [P2]

Beyond Castle Wolfenstein

The Tower of Druaga


Wild Gunman, Duck Hunt, Hogan's Alley

Karate Champ

Summer Games

Questprobe featuring The Hulk



Cutthroats [P1] [P2]

Elite [P1] [P2] [P3]
    Ancestors: Star Trader

Reversi, Free Fall

F-15 Strike Eagle
    Ancestors: Formula 1, Red Baron, Hellcat Ace

Solo Flight

Impossible Mission

Montezuma's Revenge

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy [P1] [P2] [P3]

Dragon Slayer
    Ancestors: Galactic Wars

Panorama Toh

The Caverns of Freitag

Suspect [P1] [P2]



Urban Champion
    Ancestor: Boxing (Game & Watch)

Spy vs Spy

Pitstop II
    Ancestor: Pitstop


    Ancestors: Vulgus, SonSon

3D Tank Duel & 3D Starstrike

Championship Lode Runner [P1] [P2] [P3]

Hack [P1] [P2] [P3] [P4] [P5]


Kung-Fu Master

Questprobe featuring Spider-Man

Road Fighter

Robot Odyssey [P1] [P2] [P3] [P4] [P5] [P6]
    Ancestors: Moptown

Gertrude's Puzzles

Rocky's Boots

Alley Cat (PC)

The Ancient Art of War [P1] [P2] [P3] [P4] [P5] [P6] [P7] [P8] [P9] [P10] [P11]
    Ancestor: Sierra Championship Boxing

Below the Root [P1] [P2] [P3]
    Ancestors: Snooper Troops

In Search of the Most Amazing Thing [P1] [P2] [P3] [P4]

Alphabet Zoo

Bomb Jack
    Ancestors: Head On, Rally-X, Phoenix

Route-16, Pleiades

Donald Duck's Playground
    Ancestors: Dragon's Keep, Troll's Tale


Pool, Steve Davis Snooker
    Ancestor: Castle Adventure

Rescue Raiders [P1] [P2]

Skipped games:
    Marble Madness
    Pitfall II: Lost Caverns

Intermission: 1984/1985


Hack 1.0.1 [P1] [P2] [P3] [P4] [P5] [P6]

Mindshadow [P1] [P2] [P3]


Balloon Fight, Ice Climber

Wishbringer [P1] [P2]
    Ancestor: Adventure in the Fifth Dimension


Gradius [P1] [P2]

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?


Chaos: The Battle of Wizards
    Ancestors: Time Lords


Rebelstar Raiders [P1] [P2] [P3]


Summer Games II


Harrier Mission
    Ancestors: Cavern Fighter


Flight Path 737

Graham Gooch's Test Cricket

Wrecking Crew

The Oregon Trail
    Ancestors: Oregon

Oregon Trail

    Ancestor: Champion Boxing

City Connection
    Ancestors: Pile Break

Naughty Boy

Pop Flamer


Formation Z

Jump Bug

Crush Roller

Buggy Boy
    Ancestor: TX-1

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Speed King
    Ancestors: Night Gunner

Fighter Pilot

10-Yard Fight (NES)

Spy vs. Spy: The Island Caper

    Ancestors: Megamania


Rush'n Attack

Battle City
    Ancestor: Tank Battalion

Super Mario Bros.

Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar


The Crimson Crown

Winter Games

    Ancestors: Tutankham


Little Computer People

The Pawn

The Legend of Kage

The Bard's Tale

Silent Service

Deja Vu: A Nightmare Comes True!!

Balance of Power
    Ancestors: Invaders

Space Pirates

Crime and Punishment

Eastern Front (1941)

Xanadu: Dragon Slayer II

Koronis Rift
    Ancestor: Sinister

The Eidolon



International Karate
    Ancestors: Colony 7 (Atari 400)

Death Star Interceptor

    Ancestors: 3D Space Wars

3D Seiddab Attack

3D Lunattack

Space Harrier

Romance of the Three Kingdoms
    Ancestors: Battle of Kawanakajima

Nobunaga's Ambition

Take the A-Train

Bomberman (NES)
    Ancestors: Pengo


Binary Land

Nuts & Milk

Nuts & Milk (NES)

    Ancestor: Lunar Leeper

Brain Breaker

Crusade in Europe
    Ancestor: NATO Commander

Law of the West

    Ancestor: Raid on Bungeling Bay

Transylvania (enhanced)

Skipped games:
    A Mind Forever Voyaging
    Ghosts 'N Goblins
    King's Quest II: Romancing the Throne
    Yie Ar Kung-Fu


  1. While stuck at home self-quarantined, I've been playing some VR in between checking off titles on my 1982 list.

    Creed: Rise to Glory is just about the most immersive video game I've played in any medium. Cliche as it probably sounds, it feels like you're there in the ring, or in the gym. My encounter with Duane “Rhino” Reynolds was a plenty intimidating one - I'm not small in real life, but here I had to physically tilt my head up to look him in the eye, which is something you just don't experience when playing games on a conventional TV. Punching, ducking, and weaving feels really good, and you can actually see your own arms (and body) - while the effect isn't perfect, it works well enough that I wonder why de facto standard in such games is to just show floating hands? When you're stunned or knocked down, the camera shifts into third person like you're having an out of body experience, which I found a really clever touch, and the more you're hurting, the farther you're knocked out of your body. Seeing the ring as a distant, blurry speck in a sea of blackness is discouraging, knowing you've got to run back in in only ten seconds if you want to continue the fight, and it's tempting to just give up.

    But structurally, Creed is undercooked. After some inadequate tutorials, the rest of the game follows a cycle - you get some exposition that feels like it would make more sense if you had seen the film (I haven't). Then you walk around a gym and have the opportunity to practice some exercise-based mini-games. Then you "train" which plays like WarioWare as you rapidly move from exercise to random exercise, spending no more than a few seconds per and trying to complete as many as possible in order to boost your stamina for the fight. Then you fight someone. Repeat until end of game. The script, what little of it there is, is awfully repetitive - I don't know how many times I heard my trainer say "you fought hard out of the ring to get in here," but it was more than twice. At one point in the story mode, there's a flashback to a scuffle in a back alley with a security guard, but there's no explanation why we're here trading blows, it just happens (complete with the sounds of a cheering audience and a referee's countdown, somehow). There's no ending either - knock down the champ and you just get a very long credits roll and a "Thank you for playing Creed" message.

    The fight mechanics are kind of mediocre too. I never really understood how advanced locomotion works, or what triggers slow motion, or know if there was a point to different types of punches, but didn't really need to. I beat the game just fine on the second highest difficulty, only lost twice, and all I really did was block, dodge by moving my head, and hit hard when their guard was down. And throughout, there's a general feel of lack of polish - for instance, Creed's thumping heartbeat and labored gasps for air play on an endless loop if you pause or finish a fight while he's winded.

    That said, I had fun playing this despite its major deficiencies. Without the VR and hand-tracking controls this would be rather poor, but the VR immersion is terrific. I'd often be tired and sweaty after finishing a fight - and thankful for the removable, washable head gasket. I'd like to see Survios make a VR fitness game with the same attention to immersive detail.

    1. On the other end of the fitness spectrum I've also been playing Trover Saves the Universe, a gamepad-controlled platformer where your ingame avatar is literally a paraplegic who cannot stand up or leave their chair.

      The gameplay is a pretty thin veneer of 3D platforming, and might as well have been a walking simulator. There's nothing here that hasn't been done better hundreds of times over the past 25 years. Controlling Trover like a puppet from your immobile seat, you traverse a bunch of bizarre worlds with a variety of bog-standard obstacles to jump over, you collect these green babies for prestige and more health points, complete simple tasks, solve easy puzzles, and fight hordes of enemies with your standard weak attacks, strong attacks, slam attacks, and dodge-rolling.

      But there's a simple reason I've been enjoying this game anyway, and it's the humor. Though it veers much more on the loose improvisational side of things, lacking any sort of coherent plot, it's unmistakably a Justin Roiland game; Trover sounds like Morty, all of the enemies sound like Rick, and nobody shuts up. Ever. It really should be insufferable, but somehow it all just works. I remember games like No One Lives Forever, where a big part of the appeal was eavesdropping on ridiculous conversations between characters ("You look like you need a monkey..."). That became a trope in itself, but thanks to limited CD-ROM space you could only put so much extraneous dialog into your game. Here, the 50GB Blu-Ray storage space allows for hours and hours Roiland's seemingly endless volumes of rambling dialog, segues, and so many ways of demolishing the fourth wall. Moments such as when Trover asks you to drop the camera down to floor level so you can have a face to face conversation, or when an irritating and disgruntled flying denizen just swoops right into your face and rants at you, tracking your head to stay right in front of wherever you're looking, have a distinct charm that wouldn't work if you were just playing on the TV.

      There's also a certain thrill in moving objects with your head once you get the telekinesis ability. Take that, James Randi.

      It's not going to be for everyone, and I'm thankful the game is short enough to not wear out its welcome (for me anyway. Anyone who doesn't enjoy Rick & Morty at its absolute stupidest will probably not last the tutorial stage here). But I enjoyed its bizarre, stylistic humor while it lasted. I doubt I'm going to ever go back and try to find all the collectables - I kind of expect if I did, I'd be rewarded in a tongue-in-cheek, screw-you, you obsessing freak kind of way, despite Trover's insistence that there's a really awesome unlockable reward waiting for me.

    2. On the subject of Justin Roiland VR games, Virtual Rick-Ality was a disappointment. Some funny moments, but far too much self-referential humor for my tastes. Being able to play with a plumbus in Rick's lab, for instance, isn't so much a joke, as it's a reminder of a joke I already saw in the show. Gameplay feels like the world's easiest escape-the-room flash game, and most of the puzzles are straightforward affairs of doing what Rick tells you to do. Picking stuff up feels like a chore that doesn't even work half the time. The whole segment with the baby alien seemed buggy; I'm pretty sure that on multiple occasions I broke the AI script and had to reset the chapter. On one occasion, it got stuck on the scenery, and I had to reset the chapter. The best part was Troy: A Life Well Lived, and if expanded could have been a standalone game.

    3. i wanna try out your backlog too!
      just no adult-rated stuff

    4. I picked up Creed first, but then I got Thrill of the Fight for like $15 and I wish that I had just started with that. It is way less glossy for sure (and you miss out on the awesome title screen soundtrack), but it just feels more real.

      If you want to try a dungeon crawler, I recommend Karnage Chronicles (especially if you have a friend to play with, "They're ABOVE you!!!"). My brother and I live 2,000 miles away and had no issue connecting or staying connected.

      Also, Dance Central if you like dancing games.

  2. I've been replaying Ultima VII lately too, on and off. Mostly off - the idea of dealing with its awful inventory interface, bugs, mysterious vanishing inventory items, trying to track down NPCs who wander around and then click on them during the fraction of a second they stop moving, the fire sword that won't stop crackling ever, the ridiculous combat, and all that jazz frequently makes me want to go do something more productive instead. As of now, I'm pretty far ahead of CRPG Addict - right now I'm headed to New Magincia in search of some notebook that these interdimensional knowledge traders (Orz/Melnorme hybrids?) want in exchange for a meeting with the Time Lord. I did get a head start by about (checks file timestamps) two months, but with so much stopping and starting, who knows who will finish first.

    This is only the second time I'd ever played it - the first time would have been around 2006-2007, and I was using Exult. Back then I valued quality of life features over authenticity. Now I'm playing in DOSBox, and the nastiness of the GUMP-based interface comes full force when everything has to fit in a 320x200 window. It's rather incredible how much pain is assuaged just by having high resolution support - it makes navigating those towns much easier, and makes it so that you can actually fit more than two inventory windows on the screen at the same time. Combat seems to be much more difficult this time around too, but it's still an unmanageable clusterfuck. My party members just die more often now, often dropping stuff that I can't find later. On the plus side, I have a Roland MT-32 now, so I get to hear the music as intended for the first time. It does get monotonous after hearing the same loops for the 80th time.

    One thing I'm not missing nearly as badly as expected is Exult's keyring. I just don't feel the need to hold onto my keys. They typically seem to only open one thing, so after using one, I just drop it nearby the thing it opened.

    Quest items are more of a problem. How do I know whether or not a scroll, medallion, book, or other piece of evidence has further use later in the game? I don't, so I just carry everything that seems plausibly useful.

    I do wish that this game had a quest log. Not because I don't take notes - I do. It's just that it would be nice if the game gave positive confirmation on whether or not I had reached the end of a questing thread - I'm never quite sure when I can cross something off my todo list or not. For instance, I just recently I found and conversed with a unicorn named Lasher in a cave west of Trinsic, and within the same cave, met a naive summer child seeking him as a test of worthiness to wed. I told Lasher about this, and he said he'd think about revealing himself. It doesn't seem like there's more for me to do, but without some kind of confirmation of this, it just feels like a dangling thread.

    1. One big thorn in my side is the inventory system, not just for its cluttered interface, but for its invisible capacity limits. The game tells you how much weight you're carrying and when you're close to a limit, but there's no way to know how full your bag is. Sometimes you try to put an item in your pack, and it just says "no room" even though you aren't anywhere near your weight limit. This is because containers have invisible capacity limits, and items take up an amount of space unrelated to their weight.

      So I did a bunch of tests and math, and drew some conclusions about the system.

      Backpacks store up to 149 units of capacity. Small items take up 1 or 2 units. Stacks all take up the same amount of space, regardless of size. E.g. - a stack of 1 gold uses 2 units, and a stack of 100 gold also uses 2 units (though it weighs as much as 100 loose pieces).

      Bags do not extend your capacity. They are only useful for organization. A bag uses 70 units of capacity, and can contain 69.

      Some of the items that take 1 capacity include:
      Bolt stacks
      Reagent stacks
      Orb of the Moons
      Lightning Wand
      Lockpick stacks
      Fellowship Medallion
      Pocket Watch

      Some of the items that take 2 capacity include:
      Gold stacks
      Mutton (and probably most other foods)
      Arrow stacks
      Rudyom's Wand

      Some other items:
      Bedroll = 20
      Blackrock = 20
      Bow = 15
      Shield = 12
      Fire sword = 12
      Crossbow = 12
      Virtue Stone = 10
      Hawk = 10
      Two-handed sword = 8
      Sextant = 5
      Spellbook = 5

    2. Here's a pointless Ultima VII lifehack - instead of storing things in stacks of 100, be 9% more weight efficient by storing them in stacks of 99!

      This works because a stack of gold coins weighs [count/100], rounded down to a tenth of a pound. Reagents work the same way. This means a stack of 99 weighs no more than stack of 90!

      However, stacks of under 10 get rounded up instead of down. A loose gold coin weighs just as much as a stack of 19. I was wrong that a stack of 100 coins weighs as much as 100 loose coins; the loose coins weigh much, much more.

      Bolts and arrows are heavier than gold and reagents and simply weigh 0.1 pounds each, no rounding.

    3. Finally resumed Ultima VII today after about seven weeks of hiatus.

      My first contact in New Magincia was Boris the tavernkeeper, who wasn't especially humble. There are a dozen or so characters on the island, including Katrina, an old companion now retired as a shepherd, and three shipwreck victims from Buccaneer's Den. Naturally, their ship was built by Owen, the famously bad shipwright.

      Their leader, Robin, knows of the hooked man, and more importantly, is willing to pay me good money for passage off the island, provided I find for them a valuable locket they stole and lost so that they can hock it so they can pay me. This proposal makes no sense - even if I wasn't supposed to be a paragon of virtue, why would I give them stolen property so that they can afford to pay me for service, when I could just sell the property myself?

      Alagner, who has a large warehouse that I couldn't enter, was perfectly willing to lend me his notebook for the wisps, provided I seek out The Tortured One in New Magincia to prove my worthiness as a scholar. So to recap - go to New Magincia, so I can find The Tortured One and learn about the answer to life, the universe, and everything, so Alagner will lend me his notebook, so I can show it to the wisps in exchange for a meeting with the Time Lord which will apparently help me in my journey because a gypsy fortuneteller I met on the suggestion of Chuckles after winning his stupid game said it would. Also, Alagner mentions, everyone in Skara Brae is now a zombie. Terrific.

      A lot of the houses in New Magincia are abandoned and locked, and contain nothing of value. The residents keep opening their windows anyway. One lean-to has a locked chest containing dishware. Yay?

      The locket subplot is the real diversion here. By interrogating the population, we learn that it originally belonged to Katrina, who gave it to the peasant Henry, so that he could give it to Constance as an engagement present. The pirates stole it, and Constance dumped him. Speaking to Constance reveals her to be exactly the sort of gold digger airhead who would do something like that. Boris then stole it from the pirates, presumably intending it as a gift for Constance to catch her on the rebound, but his wife, who is also the mayor, found it first and assumed it was meant for her. When informed that the locket was stolen, she was enraged, and charged me with returning it to its rightful owner.

      You could just give it to Henry and be done with the quest. Or, you could offer it to the pirates, who then reveal their plan - seduce Constance with this gift, and take her to Buccaneer's Den on your ship, where she'll command a huge price as a sex slave. Whether you agree to this or not, they'll try to kill you to keep your mouth shut / cut you out of the deal, but I had no trouble mopping the floor with them. Seriously, why tell us about your evil plan if you don't want anyone to know? Just tell me you lust for Constance and that your money is in a stash at your destination. Anyway, after killing them you can just give the locket to Henry, who can probably do better. Speaking to Constance afterward shows that everything is peachy now and they're engaged to be engaged.

    4. Skara Brae is a dark, nasty, zombie-filled place, full of burnt out houses with wiggling furniture pieces, tree stumps, clouds, and ghosts, and can only be reached by ferry. The story is that the town's alchemist Caine burned everything in an enormous conflagration while trying to smoke out a lich named Horance. Everyone's dead, their souls haunt their places, and are frequently summoned to the lich's tower for some kind of ritual so ghastly that none have any memory of ever being there. It's infested with bugs too - more than once, I found the main quest script here got stuck, with critical characters nowhere to be seen, or not talking to you, or not advancing the plot in the way they're supposed to. Playing Ultima VII with just one save file is asking for trouble, and nowhere is this more evident than in Skara Brae.

      The ghosts can be spoken to with the "seance" spell, and the town healer Mordra, who immediately recognized me, provides much information on the residents, and clues on what you need to do here to set things right. Quenton is a sad figure, a fisherman whose wife had been murdered, and daughter fell ill soon after. Insolvent, his creditor killed him, and his daughter died, and her tomb resides in the town cemetary. Caine believes himself to be forever burning as punishment for causing the devasation. He isn't, but his mind is still capable of feeling agony. Mordra blames the mayor for getting her ingredients wrong - yeah, Mordra, I think that's also partly on you for playing telephone with a concoction that literally sets things on fire instead of just walking over to Caine's place yourself with a hand-written note, and also partly on Caine for not double-checking things, especially since it turns out the mayor mangled it by telling him to use one *ton* of mandrake powder instead of a small vial of it. Others aren't even aware they're dead - such as the flirty barmaid Paulette, who eternally leans over charred bar tables in her low-cut bodice while pretending to scrub them, or Trent the blacksmith, who's forever smithing some kind of cage that he thinks will imprison and destroy the lich.

      Horance could be found in his tower to the north of town, lying on top of an ossuary with a bunch of ghosts lying on adjacent ones. Visiting during the day, he was awake and surprisingly cordial for an unnaturally living cadaver who drinks souls to sustain himself, and politely told me about his plans to rule the world by killing everyone controlling their shambling corpses, seemingly expecting me to be on board with this. He even told me that he intends to use blackrock to kill Lord British. The blacksmith's wife Rowena sat there by his side, in a trance, unaware of anything except Horance. On his roof I found a book describing the ghoulish process of making yourself a lich, written by Mondain and co-authored by Minax and Exodus, no less.

      Tracking down the mayor took way longer than it should have. I simply couldn't find him anywhere in town, though there was an abandoned five-room building that I expected must be town hall since every other large building was inhabited and had a purpose I could identify. I wound up waiting at the lich's place until Horance's feeding time at midnight, saving, then waiting a few hours until the ghosts left their stations and followed the male ghosts - the one that turned out to be the mayor went to the town hall, but the pathfinding got him stuck behind the building's north wall on the outside, with only a few gray pixels barely visible against Skara Brae's dreary color palette. Speaking to him revealed little except to confirm that he's a pathetic, infantile, and incompetent excuse for a former human being, that he did bungle the ingredients, and Mordra was a fool to trust him with this.

    5. At Mordra's advice, I took an heirloom from the blacksmith to his wife in the dark tower, which broke her trance, and she gave me a ring to show her husband. This brought him to his senses, and he finished building his iron cage. Mordra's instructions were to trap Horance's body at midnight and pour a potion over it, which I made at the alchemist's using the correct recipe. How would you even use an entire ton of mandrake root? The still heads at his lab are only big enough to fit small bottles. Dragging the cage to the tower was a big pain in the ass; you can't, as far as I know, carry it, so I moved it a few feet at a time by dragging and dropping the huge cage sprite to the far edge of the visible screen, walking toward it to scroll a bit closer, and repeating, and got annoyed every time the fickle cursor decided I wasn't quite clicking on the cage sprite or that I had dragged it onto a patch of land too close to a shrub. The potion destroyed the lich, leaving Horance's soul who I guess wasn't evil any more but didn't seem all that remorseful for his actions as a lich or even murdering babies and whatever else is necessary to become one.

      After Rowena was re-united with her husband, Horance told me I had to find a ghost willing to sacrifice him/herself to free the town, suggesting I ask the mayor first. Everyone had an excuse - even Caine, who you'd think would be eager to face oblivion, but insisted on suffering eternal torment as penance. But Caine, you'd be doing a good deed, and besides that would be sparing someone who doesn't want to do this! The mayor ultimately agreed, but only after I had asked everyone else on the island, including the ferryman. Skara Brae now freed, with a few souls left behind, Caine finally gave me the answers I came here to seek - the answer is that there aren't any. How very surprising.

      Despite all this increasingly feeling like an extremely elaborate practical joke by Chuckles, Alagner accepted this answer. Then he gave me the key to his warehouse, filled with invisible walls, teleporters, and puzzles made annoying to solve by Ultima VII's cramped interface, and at the end of it, found his notebook, in which he observes that the fellowship are a hypocritical and subsersive organization who have duped Britannia. Again, no shit. Then, out of nowhere on one of the last pages, he notes that there are "grade three" members ranking higher than Batlin and are in direct communication with The Guardian himself. How does Alagner even know about him?

      The wisps of Yew read his notebook and in exchange told me about how The Guardian is going to come into this dimension and wreck everything for funsies, and that the Time Lord, trapped in a dimensiona accessible by using the orb of the moons, requests an audience. Visiting him, he reveals that he sent for me by red moongate, and has been using the wisps to reach out to me. No explanation of the overly elaborate treasure hunt beginning with Chuckles and his stupid game. He told me The Guardian installed aether generators throughout the land to disrupt the flow of magic and moon gate travel, and I've got to destroy them. The first would be found in Despise.

      Before that, though, I returned to New Magincia to return the notebook as Alagner asked, only to find him drawn and quartered by the Fellowship.

    6. I'm almost at the end. Destroying the generators involved a whole lot of travelling around Brittania fetching stuff and talking to people, but that's Ultima VII in a nutshell.

      At the entrance to Despise, I found the magic carpet, which is so much better than the ship. Granted, it can be pretty annoying to try to find a safe landing spot, but getting the ship into the right spot to dock and having to go through the motions of unfurling the sail and extending the gangplank was annoying too, especially when the game kept interpreting my clicks to mean "talk to your party members" rather than "moor the ship."

      Despise is a pretty irritating dungeon with multiple teleporter traps which invisibly teleport your party and it's not always obvious when this happens. Early on there's a fireball shooting obelisk blocking off one intersection, and if you're close enough to see it, you're probably going to get fireballed to death. In the middle section, I stumbled on an invisible staircase leading to a hideout of some rebels who, according to a memo found there, were going to assassinate Lord British. At the end of it was the sphere generator, blocked by a red moongate.

      To pass the moongate, I had to seek help from the mad mage Nicodemus, who sent me to a pawn shop in Paws to find his magic hourglass. I did that, returned it, and then told me I had to "fix the ether." The Time Lord had me seek out the help of another mage, Penumbra, who sent me to find a magic ring belonging to Draxinusom. Went to his island, he told me he sold it to the "sultan" of Spektran, a mad hermit on a nearby desert island. So I went there and my party promptly got hacked to bits by a stone harpy after entering his house. After several attempts, and noting that magic never did any good, it occurred to me that maybe the harpy is immune to magic weapons. So I dequipped everyone and we just punched it to death. The harpy's body had a key which unlocked the vault where the ring was kept. Penumbra enchanted it, she sent me to a different island to destroy another generator in the dungeon Deceit.

      Deceit was fairly easy. In it I found an intelligent cyclops, and two sisters who came to Deceit to kill him. The cyclops knew of them, claimed that he killed their father in self-defense, and regretted it but was prepared to face his daughters in battle. I tried to talk the sisters into calling off their quest, because that's how Ultima generally works, but the dialog option wasn't there. At the end I had to temporarily disband my party as only I could safely approach the generator while wearing the enchanted ring. Destroying it repaired the ether, restoring the mages' sanity, and Nicodemus enchanted his hourglass, allowing me to pass through the red moongate and solve a puzzle to destroy the sphere generator, freeing the Time Lord, but also disabling the moon gates, which I never used anyway.

      Last was the cube generator, found in a fellowship Meditation Retreat, protected by a sonic trap. The Time Lord sent me on yet another fetch quest, first to the observatory in moonglow to ask Brion about "cadellite," who told me the Minoc blacksmith could make helmets out of it, and sent me to ask his brother at the Lycaeum, who told me to ask Jillian, who told me the land of Ambrosia, to the northeast of the continent, rose when a meteor struck it, and I should check it out (Ambrosia does not appear on any game maps, whether ingame or in the game package).

    7. On Ambrosia, I found a childish pixie named Kissme who wanted to kiss everyone and cover us in fairy dust, a tiny island that could only be reached by ship and had a building with a magically locked door that I couldn't open with my spells, and another dungeon with several magically locked doors, one blocking a passage to a lich that I decided not to bother, and at the end a hydra with multiple personalities guarding the cadellite meteor. The hydra stumped me for a bit, as it was walled off in all directions, but I found the northmost wall had a secret door in it. I killed the hydra easily, played Tetris with my inventory to squeeze eight pieces of Cadellite inside it, and went to Zorn to make those helmets, allowing me to enter the cube generator, solve an annoying fire-trap filled maze where my magic didn't work and the game would lock up whenever I "died," and destroy the generator from within, giving me a cube talisman that would compel Fellowship members to tell the truth.

      I went to all the Fellowship halls, saving Buccaneer's Den for last, to shake some answers out of people, but didn't learn much I didn't already know. Klog in Trinsic talked the most, told me that the hooked man is their executioner, and Christopher's death was ordered for refusing to deliver some pedestals. Batlin just fled.

      In Buccaneer's Den, I managed to get stuck in an interesting way. At The House of Games, the games master told me that the caverns connect all establishments here, and the bouncer was all too willing to give me the key to the backroom, where I found the hooked man's quarters, a hitlist with his victims checked off, and me and Lord British at the bottom, two keys, and a memo to make a final trip to the Isle of the Avatar. South of his quarters was a heavily trapped corridor with three treasure chests that I couldn't find a way to reach. The northern caves had a torture chamber guarded by a troll who just loved his job, and I killed him and freed the two prisoners, including an Avatar impersonator, but neither said or did much of use. To the east was an annoying section with monsters, teleporters, and fake walls, leading to some magic armor.

      The way I got stuck was by entering the House of Baths through the backdoor, passing through a room full of valuables. Being the virtuous Avatar that I am and knowing that the hostesses might not be there by their own will ("I am treated very well, I make piles of gold, and am not exploited at all" sounds so convincing), I declined their services. Then, I noticed that the backdoor had shut behind me! Oh well, I'll just have to buy membership so I can leave through the front door. The manager, sitting outside, could hear me fine. But I was out of money! Did the game glitch, or did someone here steal it - this is Buccaneer's Den after all - or did I spent it all on reagents and not realize it? Oh well, I'll teleport out. Except I was also completely out of mandrake root needed to cast Recall, plus my magic carpet would be stranded here, leaving me no easy way back, and I forgot where I left my boat.

      Thankfully, I keep multiple saves. Anyone playing this game should.

      Next session, I go to the Isle of the Avatar where I expect I finish this game.

    8. Ultima VII finished! Stormed the final dungeon on Island of the Avatar, filled with pushover combat and some weird puzzles, culminating in a throne room that invisibly teleports you to an identical looking throne room when you sit on the throne. The trickiest puzzles were the ones requiring moving stuff to find hidden levers and keys underneath.

      The Time Lord recommended I bring something that can destroy blackrock, and Rudyom's wand would do. At the end of the gauntlet was a room with the black gate, where Batlin, Elizabeth, Abraham, the hooked man, and some other fighters fought me futilely, and Batlin escaped. I destroyed the black gate with Rudyom's wand, ending The Guardian's invasion of Britannia, and winning the game.

      I'm ambivalent about Ultima VII after this playthrough. It's a landmark and a masterpiece of open worldbuilding - and plenty has been written about that. But there was barely a minute of gameplay that didn't irritate me in some capacity, and plenty has been written about that too. Exult alleviates a lot of the pain, but I didn't use it this time. And the main plot, I feel, isn't nearly as strong as it should be, and doesn't bear a whole lot of scrutiny. Just how is the Guardian dominating people from another dimension? How did he manage to plant generators in Britannia from the outside? And what's to stop him from doing it again? The endless reliance on MacGuffins gets pretty silly too. The plot just hasn't got anything altogether surprising in it; it's obvious from the start that The Fellowship are behind The Guardian, and you really just spend the main plot doing convoluted and cascading fetch quests so you can break his toys and stop his arrival. I don't mind linearity, but it could have been done better.

      Exult really does make this game more pleasant to play through, though it does have some negative effects on authenticity, such as the zoomed out view making dungeons less claustrophobic, trivializing many puzzles, and also making the "roof mode" look silly as all roofs in a mile's radius get removed when you step into just one house. But I'd recommend Exult to anyone who hasn't already made up their mind that they want the authentic DOS experience.

  3. I played through Labyrinth of Crete this weekend, an Apple II adventure holding the distinction of the first design credit by Cliff Johnson, author of The Fool’s Errand, one of the finest puzzle games I’ve ever played, and multiple later puzzle games of a similar style. I knew this was a text adventure with graphics in select rooms, but I was curious to see if I could see any traces of the sublime puzzle design that would later characterize his games. I could not.

    Labyrinth of Crete is very much in the mold of Adventureland, but much bigger. The labyrinth is divided into three sections, each one larger than Adventureland in its entirety. Combined it’s only slightly smaller than Colossal Cave Adventure, but due to the segmented design feels more manageable. The game comes with a map of all three levels, and each room is denoted with a number, so MOTLP situations are completely avoided. A lot of the rooms serve no purpose except padding, and there’s a LOT of backtracking, especially after reaching the final section, where you must return to old sections to solve puzzles that needed items found there.
    But the puzzle design is almost entirely of the use-item-in-room approach that we see in Adventureland, and unless you’re familiar with Greek mythology, they’re going to be nonsensical. Even if you are, quite a few are nonsensical. Any time you see the name of something, you know you’re going to have to re-enact a myth. Sometimes I’m not even sure if puzzle solutions are references to myths – during the third section, I had to drop an idol in a room where I could see Oceanus. This pleased him, and he gave me a trident. This trident then had to be dropped in a silver mine, where it dislodged some silver ore that I needed in order to forge the Aegis. Incidentally, “drop” is an extremely useful verb, and most of the puzzles are solved by dropping an item in a room where you need it to do something. If you know what to do but can’t figure out which verb the game wants you to use, it’s probably “drop.”

    The sole gameplay gimmick is that you control both Hercules and Jason, who generally move together, but you can, and sometimes must, have them separate. This is used pretty early on, where your first obstacle, a hydra, must be passed by having one distract it while the other passes by until he can find a way to destroy it, but overall isn’t used very often. Jason and Hercules also cannot travel between the labyrinth sections unless they are together.

    A key to solving the game is to write down absolutely everything, noting the room where you read it. Small details are often clues that become obvious later. Speak to everyone, and if they ever respond, it is definitely a clue to a puzzle. Minos, found in the underworld, tells you Ixion “can only hope for freedom.” This hints at a thing you must do – bring the gem of hope to Ixion and drop it. Doing this causes Hades to teleport right into Ixion’s private torture chamber to chide you, leaving Pandora’s Box behind. This can be snatched by the other character, if you left him behind in Hades’ room.

    Did I mention there’s a ton of backtracking? Most of the time, there’s only one puzzle you can actually solve at any given moment, leading to an extremely linear game solution, one that involves going to a room, using an item to get another one, and then trying to figure out which of the 35-40 accessible rooms now has a thing where you can do something. On the bright side, there aren’t very many ways you can die or get stuck, but they do exist.

    At the end of the game, in the halls of Olympus, you’re treated to an Apple buzzer rendition of In the Hall of the Mountain King.

    Overall, this game isn’t great. I’m not sorry that I tried it, but nevertheless was hoping for more, given the name familiarity.

  4. SimCity is marked as a c64 game from 1985. Is that a mistake?

    1. The prototype was apparently made in 1985, so I'm playing it then, under the assumption that the final C64 version isn't far off.

  5. Been playing Pizza Tower lately. I've had my eye on its development for awhile, but only got around to it this week. It's really good. Go get it.

    Combing weighty controls with intense speed and flow, like Wario and Sonic the Hedgehog had a neurotic, blow-addicted baby (this fanfiction definitely exists), and with absolute commitment to its pizza world theme and deranged MS Paint aesthetic, which absolutely should not animate as well as it does, it just feels awesome to play. God of War's elaborate and scripted kill animations that you execute with minimal input never made me feel like a badass. You know what did? Tearing through Pizza Tower's worlds in reverse at mach 3 while a timer ticks, smashing through everything with perfectly timed jumps, slams, and wall kicks, and then going for the second lap and landing the level exit moments before getting torn to shreds by a demon named Pizzaface, earning myself a deserved S rank.

    I have to note that the gulf between A rank and S rank is huge. As it should be, to be honest, but perhaps getting an A rank is a bit too easy; so far I managed this on most levels the first time. S rank really demands that you know the level well enough to confidently blast through it nearly perfectly, and probably requires getting all of its secrets (which I feel clashes with its own nonstop flowing design) as well as taking the Pizza Portal at the end of each level for a second lap, which normally you just don't have time for. Getting the ultimate 'P' rank seems impossible, and I've 200%'d Cuphead.

    I've just finished the desert area, pistol-dueled a sentient cheese glob in a cowboy hat, and am apparently 31% through the tower. And can't wait for more.

    1. I just beat the game, though not with a 100% ranking. I can't say I loved the final fight against Pizzaface (El Vigilante and The Noise were my favorite boss fights and I even liked Pepperman better), nor the Five Nights at Freddy's homage on the top floor. I blew it more times than I could count, the jumpscares stopped being scary, and Peppino turned into an animatronic stopped being funny, and I got an A rank without feeling like I earned it. Being able to gun down the evil animatronics with a boomstick during the escape sequence was a bit cathartic, anyway.

      But you know what I loved? The penultimate stage War! A ticking time bomb, ever-present on-screen, gives this level some genuine tension and anxiety that the FNAF stage lacked. A real do-or-die level, following dozens where you are basically invincible. Even the Pizza Time countdown at the end of each stage is a false urgency; you literally have twice as much time as you actually need. Of course, the real challenge in each stage is getting a good score, not merely surviving it, but difficulty just hits harder when there's a tangibly violent failstate, and not just failure to achieve a self-imposed challenge that you'll have to manually restart to try again.

      Still a great game overall, and very deserving of its indie darling status.


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