15 Years later

Back in the 90’s point and click adventure games were riding high. LucasArts were effectively the sector leader within the genre, producing such timeless classics as Monkey Island, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis along with Day of the Tentacle.

So imagine how disappointed little Mark was one Christmas morning to wake-up and find after frantically unwrapping his present not Monkey Island but Flight of the Amazon Queen from Renegade Software under the Christmas tree. This was in spite of a month long campaign of dropping hints, circling the game in the Argos catalogue and collecting Toys-r-us item ticket. To be fair it wasn’t as bad as the year I received Premier Manager 2 without the piracy protection code wheel. Now I don’t want to sound like I was a spoiled ungrateful child, but I wasn’t too happy about not finding Monkey Island under the tree. I cried, then proclaimed “But I’ve been a really good boy this year” (That statement couldn’t have been further from the truth but my childhood is another story altogether). 


  
  

Now to be fair Flight of the Amazon Queen (FOTAQ) is far from a terrible game, it just wasn’t the game I’d been hoping for. Anyway like any child at Christmas I made best of a bad situation and played the game regardless of my disappointment.

Initial disappoint aside I have nothing but fond memories of my time with FOTAQ as a child, but to my frustration I was never able to complete the game. This wasn’t due to the disastrous bug that plagued the initial release of the game. The bug concerned a character that you met within the first 20 minutes and a conversation tree action required to obtain a door key was never triggered. My roadblock was a late game puzzle where I could never pass a giant snake that was preventing me from progressing through a door. So I set out to rectify this travesty that has blighted my gaming history for too long.

Firstly I had visions of fiddling with DOSbox or creating a virtual machine but thankfully due to the magical SCUMMvm (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion Virtual Machine) platform the process was effortless. The virtual machine allows users to legally play a hefty library games that run on the SCUMM engine and a solid collection of Sierra games that don’t (King’s Quest, Leisure suit Larry and Space Quest to name a few).

Anyway. So FOTAQ is very much your standard 90’s point and click adventure. Walk here, pick up this, pick up that, combine this and that to move thing, its a tried and tested formula that still works to this day.

The first thing that shocked me on booting up the game is that it has full voice acting or a “Talkies” version. On my 10 plus floppy disc Amiga version I was only greeted with glorious midi sounds, so the fact that the characters talked was something of a delight.

In the usual point and click adventure style you take control of a character whom will carry out actions you request through that method of pointing and clicking. In FOTAQ you take control of Joe King (I kid you not), Joe a pilot for hire and owner of the Amazon Queen airplane. Whilst en route to the Amazon jungle the plane crashes and subsequently loses his passenger, famous movie star Faye Russel. The game in itself is a pastiche of early 1920’s pulp magazines that have been used for inspiration for other fictional characters like Indiana Jones and Zorro




The game holds up relatively well, but it does suffer from many issues that plagued all point and click adventure games from the 90’s. You will get to a point where you are totally stuck and end up just clicking every single area of the screen and combining using every single item you have picked up. Then when you have exhausted every single combination and clicked every item you are, like little Mark was all those years ago, Stuck.

Maybe it seemed extremely alien 15 years ago that a game would actually help you if you were flummoxed by a puzzle or lost navigating a jungle. But then again maybe I wasn’t the most intelligent child around. Because any idiot would know that to scare off a snake you use the flint in the lighter and rap the mummy bandage around the ulna bone and light the bandage to scare off the snake, right?

So some 15 years after starting the game I finally managed to finish it, without the aid of hints/ cheats or referring to the internet. Its not a great game by any stretch of the imagination. It has a strong premise and the first half of the game is witty and has enough nods and winks to other games of the style to raise a broad smile. Its just a pity when the more outrageous science fiction elements start venturing into the main storyline the ability to suspend disbelief becomes harder and harder.

I wouldn’t discourage any one from checking out Flight of the Amazon Queen. Its a charming adventure that just happened to have been over shadowed by slightly better games.    
3 Comments

Good stats guide

Addiction is used in many contexts to describe an obsession, compulsion, or excessive psychological dependence, such as: drug addiction, crime, problem gambling, nicotine addiction and Championship Manager Addiction.  There are few games which have addiction levels as high as the heroine-esque football management simulation Championship Manager.

As CM began to infiltrate the football world, stories began to circulate of the debilitating effects of its addictiveness. Many a promising student sacrificed their education, people have lost their jobs and the game has been cited in at least twenty divorce cases.  In producing this feature I’ve once again been smitten with CM, however it’s not the current multi-league Goliath but the English only Championship Manager with the 1993/1994 end of season data.  This is the very same game which prevented me from enjoying those formative fumbles with girlfriends and drinking cider in the park, so in essence this is the game that nurtured my gaming lifestyle.

Now to gain a general understanding of the importance of CM you first need to understand the gaming landscape of the time, but also appreciate the BSkyB revolution that football was undergoing.

Football games and to a much larger degree football management games didn’t really exist prior to the creation.  The only competition CM had was Premier Manager which offered a more business orientated game where you weren’t only in charge of the team but the whole stadium, right down to the price of the programs on match day.  
 
  

  

Prior to the creation of BSkyB football in the English league structure was on its last legs.  For many the actual events that took place on the pitch were insignificant, as a large hooligan element were only interested in violence and disorder.  Home & Away fans were treated like sub human entities, where they were treated worse than cattle and made to endure conditions akin to prisons.  Eight foot fences and barbed wire enclosures were common place and even the idea of football being a family entertainment was nothing but a pipedream.   The football League along with BSkyB dragged football kicking and screaming into a new age.  An age of season long televised football, cameras at every top level game, hospitality suites with prawn sandwiches and Sky Sports leading anchor man Richard Keys (with his uncomfortably hairy hands).  Championship manager was not only a hideously addictive game it was also able to associate itself with ‘new’ football.

After a somewhat unsuccessful commercial launch of CM and extremely harsh treatment from critics who ridiculed the game for featuring no sound (beyond the title screens) and graphics which weren’t any improvement over the BBC’s text based news service Ceefax, a strange comment, as football fans had been glued to ceefax for years, eagerly waiting for score updates.  However it wasn’t until the release of Championship Manager 93/94 with its introduction of real player names and implementation of the FA Premier league that football fans everywhere began their sordid affair with Champ Man.

The CM formula that exists today has been crafted and evolved from the original game which was released almost two decades ago.  It is true that current editions have dedicated animation engines depicting on pitch antics and accurately captured crowd effects but it’s not the glitz and glamour than CM fans love.  It is the discovery of that un-found talent playing in the lowest leagues, finding that killer formation or making that destructive strike force that drives you to domestic and European glory and in Championship Manager 93 it was no different.

As with all CM games you start with choosing your team. Now I have always a sucker for choosing my team Swansea City, but with the first few CM games player statistics and teams financial status has an element of randomness so two games never felt exactly the same.

CM93 almost fell at the first hurdle on the road to greatness.  The Amiga version which stole my youth would take a staggering 40 minutes to create a career and was renowned for getting its knickers in a twist half through and crash.  But once that initial excruciating period had passed, time would hold no relevance and before you know-it it was 7 am, you hadn’t done your physics homework and the school bus was arriving in an hour.

So the game loads, after a few choice words from the Board of directors you are thrust headlong into a bevy of menus laid out in a in a grid formation.  If you are looking for fancy graphs and detailed graphical representations of statistics then you are going to be disappointed.  CM is nothing grids and grids of raw unadulterated data.  It is essentially number pornography; every statistics is detailed to the n’th degree.  Each player’s career is monitored and constantly updated. For example the games he played for which team, how many goals he scored and what his average rating was. Furthermore there are numerous team statistics like biggest win, highest attendance, most goals in game and lots more. For each division there’s also a top scorer list and an best average rating list which can be quite useful when looking for good players from lower divisions.  
 



That first season at any club was never easy, personalities would clash, star players would want to leave or the fans would be upset by the direction you are driving the team.  If you choose to manage a lower league team you would always be battling with the accountants and making and deciding whether or not to sell your prized striker to balance the books or run the risk of upsetting the chairman by driving the team into the red, but be on the threshold of glory.  At the other end of the scale teams in the premiership are awash with new money and the lure of the premiership was enough to poach any young starlet.

After the hours and days of crafting your team the attachment you get to players is absurd.  You live in dread at the end of each successful season for the horrifying message that “They have achieved all they can at the club and need a new challenge” or the message you would never wanted to receive,  “Expected to move abroad at the end of season” this message was the nail in the coffin for your star players’ career at the club.  But nothing beats bringing through a player from the youth team to become a European cup winners’ cup winner or International, the care that goes in to nurturing the talent and the unbridled joy when they smash home a winner.

Creating that unbeatable team there really were only four players you needed to sign.  Liverpool’s Don Hutchinson, Crystal Palace’s George Ndah, Hartlepool United’s Nicky Southall and Nil Lamptey from the European transfer list.  Hutchinson and Ndah would score goals for fun while Southall would provide every assist throughout the season.  But Lamptey was the real jewel in the crown.  It is rumoured that Ron Atkinson brought Lampety to Aston Villa in the summer of 1994 due to a Championship Manager addicted scouts tip.  Lamptey’s case is often cited as an example of the dangers of hyping a teenager too much.  At 13 he was playing in Under-20 competitions. Pele hailed him as his natural successor. At 16, he was playing international. He was quick powerful, skilful; he had a natural and instinctive feel for the game: he was, in short, a genius.  But personal problems and terrible agents destroyed a career before it was able to flourish.  However in CM Lamptey is the player he should have been in real life, if you can sign the Ghanaian wizard silverware is almost guaranteed.

The great things about CM was its ability to devour hours of time even when you weren’t playing the game.  In 1993/94 the internet didn’t exist for the mass population. So the only way to learn of players/ formations and tip was through Chinese whispers on the school yard/ pub/ work.  You would hear about legendary player who would score an average of a goal a game and never request a pay rise or a formation where you would concede ball possession at every opportunity but for every three shots on target you would score one goal.

With 46 league games and numerous cups a season it takes quite some time to complete.  But somehow you’ll always want to play yet another season to see whether you can make it into the European Cup or whatever goal is next.  
 



There are myths and legends about ultra obsessed managers guiding lowly Scarborough to the highest levels of European glory.  On route to final they would sit down to and hold imaginary press conferences and play the final game in blazer and tie, and that is the problem, I should say, the only problem with CM, was that it felt real. I would go to bed carefully considering my next formation for the coming away game at Champions Nottingham Forest. I’d yelled at my parents when they needed to use the computer. “Don’t you know I just took Swansea into Europe? Do you even CARE about your son’s success?”

The biggest impact that Championship Manager has had on the football fans world is that there is now no mystery.  When Cristiano Ronaldo joined Manchester united in 2003 for 12million the average football fan went Who? And How much? But CM fans knew of his ability and to a greater degree CM fans already knew that the likes of Messi, Teves, Rooney and Xavi would be world class players because CM had already prophesised it.

The main thing that really saddens me is just how poorly CM93 has aged, it is true that CM was never a good looker but with its epileptic fit educing flashing match text or garish menus colours only management simulation fans may feel the urge to play this game.  If however you have the ability to look past the 90’s colour scheme and you are either at an age where you have no knowledge of early 1990’s football or you are just intrigued by the heritage of the Championship Manager series I strongly recommend that if you can track down a copy.
Start the Conversation

Episode 4: The Games Convention

Citizen Game: The best video game show you’ve never heard of!  

 
In episode four Danny, Tamoor and Mark travel to Germany to experience the food, culture and video games.    
 
  
 
  
    
  
If you liked the show, then please like, subscribe, sign up the site and tweet this shit to high heavens.
We appreciate any and all feedback you guys can give us!  
 
www.citizengame.co.uk  @Citizengame Youtube Channel 
2 Comments

New review

It has been an age since ive posted a review here on Giantbomb, so today that is going to change.
 
Check out my review of  GTI Club Plus: Rally Côte d'Azur  
 
This review along with most of my reviews can be found over at Citizengame.co.uk .  
 
Citizen Game is a collaboration between some of the UK's most passionate freelancer game journalists.  We don't get paid for this shit, so donate by spreading the word!

Start the Conversation

Car-cast : Rock Band




I've been trying something a little different with my blogs lately.

Since i have a decent amount of free time during my commute to work i decided to utilizes that time and create this this weird videoblog type thing.
Start the Conversation

16k Memory Lane

My adventure into the dark, dusty and spider infested attic was ultimately pointless despite being able to find both the Dragon32 and the Amiga 600hdd neither worked well enough to play any games.

I had money on the Dragon 32 working as there are no moving parts and the dragon worked perfectly. But the cassette tape deck wasn't so fortunate. The atmosphere in the attic isn't ideal for anything metallic and the inner workings of this quarter century old player are filled with once shiny parts but now they are tinged with oxidation and mild rusting. I did my best to clean up this old Sanyo cassette player and I did a good job, the player started up but something wasn't right as the sound was fading in and out and the motor on play wasn't constant.

Nevertheless is continued with childlike enthusiasm.

A quick bit of history for everyone since I very much doubt you know what the Dragon32 actually is.

The Dragon 32 is a home computers that were built in the 1980s. The Dragons are very similar to the TRS-80 Colour Computer (CoCo), and were produced for the European market by Dragon Data, Ltd., in Port Talbot, Wales.

In the early 1980s, the British home computer market was booming. New machines were released almost monthly. In August 1982, Dragon Data joined the fray with the Dragon 32; the Dragon 64 followed a year later. The computers sold quite well initially and attracted the interest of several independent software developers, most notably Microdeal. A magazine, Dragon User also began publication shortly after the machine's launch.

Anyway history lesson aside this is what a Dragon 32 looks like :-


Well I powered up the pride of the Welsh computer industry and hey presto it actually worked

Now here is where things take a turn for the worse. I can remember avidly that cassettes were notoriously difficult to load 20 years ago and talking to my father he said "It wasn't great when he got it home from the shop" so attempting to load a game some 26 years after the system was made was always going to be a long shot.

I proceeded regardless my game of choice Cuthbert goes walkabout, yes a game where the protagonist is called Cuthbert – Not quite as cool as Niko Bellic but Niko never faced a for as cynical as the Moronian.

Now the primes of the game is simple, Cuthbert is on the lunar landing pad, waiting for the federal chief's state visit. He must turn on the lights before he arrives. Simple I hear you say and to be true your right. To make Cuthbert light up the lunar pad, he must activate the swithces, which are located at the corner of the squares, by walking across them. When all four switches are turned on, the whole square will light up.

So I proceeded to start the load sequence.

OK > CLOADM

Result! the cassette player started and the tape began to spool. Slowly but surely the game was loading, the strange Fax/ Dial up modem noises started. The loading of a game could take anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes. Now here comes the crazy bit, each game manufacturer would specify on the cassette box the actual volume and pitch the game needed to be loaded at. Usually this was Volume 7 and Pitch Norm. (Pitch was split into Low, Norm and High)

As the cassette loaded I sat waiting like a child watching the slowly moving spools and the count timer ticking over with its continuously slow motion. 5, 10, 15 Minutes. CLUNK!! the cassette stops, nothing. Power down and try again.

Despite my initial excitement, 5 games and almost 2 hours of attempting to load them, I gave up somewhat deflated.

With morale being low and Saturday ticking away at some speed I moved onto the other computer in my life, the Amiga 600hdd. After the failure of the Dragon, I held little hope that the amiga would actually working. The Amiga wasn't the most reliable piece of hardware in the early 1990's the floppy disc drive would eat discs and the Hard disc drive would stop without any warning.

Well I was shocked, powered up no problem at all, First game of choice, well there is only one game to play on the Amiga, Sensible World of Soccer.

Grrr! Something not quite right with the amiga, tried various games and I would get the same error every time. So totally deflated I game up with the hardware and sat down with a cold beer and flicked through the game source code magazines that were bundled with all the other Dragon 32 paraphernalia.

The two magazines contained pages and pages of code, now the Dragon was release at the initial explosion of the home made game phenomenon that gripped the British isles and was essential the birth of the British games industry on a mass scale.

Anyway that was my somewhat unsuccessful trip back in time to an age of innocent gaming, I may return to the dragon on another wet weekend and give it another go.

I will leave you with some cool pictures of other bounty I found.

Dragon 32 games

Sega Panini trading cards

Joysticks

Power unit – And people complain about the size of the 360 power unit

And to finish, a small glimpse into the past of highstreet games shops.

Future zone was the first (I believe) computer games chain store in the uk. It was only named Future zone for around 6 to 9 months before it was renamed Games zone then Electronics Boutique which turned into Game and I think the most recent iteration of the chain is Gamestop.

Well despite the failures I did enjoy my trip down memory lane, hope you enjoyed my ramblings enjoy the my pictures in my newly

Start the Conversation

Back to GS (for now)

Right im sure that Giantbomb will be great but im just not feeling the community spirit that you get at GSUK.  Don't worry im not totally abandoning the Bomb i love the picture uploader and i will continue to use it for all my gaming photos and the Podcast is still one of the best gameing podcast around.

My profile at GSUK

Also for your attention ive just uploaded a John Madden Football 1992 review, i know its a little late but i feel its my best review todate. 

And a final note please read 16k Memory lane its all about my adventures with my Dragon32, Amiga 600hdd and other goodies i found while searching the attic. 

Start the Conversation
  • 13 results
  • 1
  • 2