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Lexington VA

Posted Tue Apr 02, 2019 12:27 pm

intric8 wrote:soul crushing
yes. That is a good two words to describe this game in its entirety :lol:

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Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Thu Apr 04, 2019 9:21 am

After two solid nights of playing (and several reboots) I finally got my party out of the ice crevasses and back to the surface. These aren't really hard battles. But I keep facing weak spellcasters who randomly cast Disintegrate and simply destroy one of your characters before you've even gotten started.

I first decided to go train all of my characters. I mean, why not? I wonder how high they can go? (They now range from 12 to 17!)

Next I went to the well. I literally have crates of gems at this point, so I figured I needed to feed it and be told which level in the mine I missed a tiny piece of the staff. It told me a few things related to a Lich, but nothing of real importance and nothing related to my current predicament.

So I just sat and stared at the screen for a while. What did I miss? What did I forget.

Out of ideas, I decided to go back to the temple and find that old dwarf, Derf. Ka-Click!

As soon as I walked into his chamber:
Now that that's done, I can go back to where I left off. OMG! I really don't remember being told to come back here before going to the castle, but it must have said so and I just brushed past it.

On to the final slog through the eastern ice crevasse (again), and to the castle. Looking forward to seeing this Lich.

One a side note, I picked up a CIB Pools of Darkness and installed it to my HDD last night, too.

Wow - just, wow! The intro is fantastic. Talk about a giant leap forward. The engine might not be seeing any marked improvement from game to game, but SSI definitely invested in a very cool intro for Pools.

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Posted Thu Apr 04, 2019 1:18 pm

The SSI Gold Box Games hold a special place in my heart. I spent a significant part of my youth with them. I was an avid Pen&Paper rpg’er back then. It was thrilling. It felt like real interactive books. After lots of grinding and such i remember the glorious feeling of success when I hit a milestone within a game like you did. Well done!
I’m surprised, though, that you missed something here. I thought Ultima IV had taught You a lesson ;) .

Great progress!!!

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Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Fri Apr 05, 2019 8:38 pm

Took me several more battles and mappings and travels (so many Medusas....). But the "final" battle was epic. Took me 3 tries to get'er done totally cleanly without any losses.
The Lich

The Lich really wasn't that big of a deal after all. But I enjoyed fighting him. On the third try I didn't lose a single character in the party, and finished the game the same way.

Oddly, the game was strangely bi-polar. I was so excited to beat the final boss, only to be left standing after it was over wondering what was going on. Then - a secret door in the room and another battle! But not a very difficult one (just scary as it was unexpected).

And then even after that battle... it didn't seem over. For a Gold Box game I was extremely disoriented to say the least.

So I went back to the game's "oracle" for answer as I wasn't sure what else to do. And then, finally, I was told I was done.

How strange... Interesting, in that it made the game seem more open-ended, but strange as I could seemingly walk around and just "do things" after I'd beaten the game.

In any case, I'm glad it's over. I think I may have liked this game more than others have mainly because, in terms of technical advancements, there weren't many. But it was fun if a bit grindy.

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Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Wed Apr 17, 2019 8:59 pm

Every time I finish a dungeon crawler or Gold Box game, I kinda need to reset myself. They are SO much fun and very rewarding, but they can take a lot out of you, too.

Point-and-click adventures take just as much, if not more. But sort of from a different part of your brain. I've played Loom before (and was captivated) but I never pushed myself to finish it. I just barely scratched the surface to be honest.

I acquired the game a few years ago, but last year I got the audio cassette, too. I now have the entire experience, and it's been ready and waiting for me. For some reason I've been afraid to start. It's got such a deep history and cult following I feel like I'm walking on hallowed ground. But I'm ready now. I installed it to HDD tonight and the disks worked flawlessly.

I need to read the manuals (which the recommend I do). And I can't read music - so I may be pulling my kids over to help me from time to time. But frankly, I like the idea of that.

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Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Sat Jun 29, 2019 3:16 pm

I completely re-wrote my original review for LOOM now that I've finally finished it for the first time.

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Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Mon Sep 30, 2019 1:56 pm

I’m in the midst of working (aka dying) my way through Elvira. Yesterday I made my way outside the castle for the first time.

The battles can be so strange and hard to master. But I do feel like I’m getting better. That being said, the fear of taking damage has trained me to save my game before opening any doors, or even walk very far as I learn my way around.

The game was actually challenging to install to hard drive, but I did manage to get that working. And then, last night, while trying to save after finding lots of things (that I hope I need - no idea, I grabbed everything that wasn’t bolted down) I got a disk error! It made no sense to me at all. I ultimately had to quit the game and restart. Thankfully I’d saved before picking everything up, so I hadn’t lost much.

Then I fired up DOpus and went to the Elvira install. For some reason, all of the new files I tried to create were completely blank. I could see the file names I’d created, but there was no data. They weren’t zero bytes, the size was just blank!

So, chalk that up as a weird one. Glad I hadn’t lost too much of my game.

Anyway, at one point I made it to a hedge maze doorway, so naturally I walked through it. At the end of a long green field stood a man with a hawk sitting on his arm. Not quite sure what to do, I clicked on the man which caused the game’s camera to do a close-up on his face. He winked at me.

I thought, “That can’t be good.”

Suddenly the bird launched off his arm. I watched helplessly as the bird went full-screen, and then...
sscrrrrr-itch pop!


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Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Fri Oct 11, 2019 1:18 pm

I've lost count of how many times I've had to restart this game and/or revert to earlier saves (like WAaayyy back).

My most recent debacle: I feel like I got really far into the game, but I met a knight on top of a wall that was impossible to kill in hand-to-hand combat. You're even told this tidbit before fighting him. But I'd used all of my crossbow bolts days earlier. Arrrgh! I feel like half of me loves this game, while the other half is growing to hate it. The trial by fire approach is wearing me down big time.

At least I've gotten a little better with the sword play. But if your Dexterity drops below 20 you might as well start over, too.

Oh sure, there's a spell book where there's at least one spell that boosts your Dexterity. But it only increases it by 1 or two points per sip (and there are only 3 sips iirc) so it's pretty useless. And you only have enough ingredients in the game to make one potion per spell. So...

And most of the spells are like this.

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Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Sat Oct 12, 2019 8:46 am

I finally beat this game last night. Full review to follow soon.

One thing that has nagged me from the beginning: where it was made.

The game was published by Accolade, which was a US company based out of California at the time. But the game was made by Horror Soft. And everything I've been able to find (not much) states Horror Soft was based out of the UK.

If this game was made in the UK, did the people making it even know who Elvira was? I used to watch her show (eagerly) when I was a kid in the 1980s. They showed it once a week, and if I remember correctly it was on late at night on Saturday nights. The movies she hosted were absolutely terrible, but it didn't matter because it was all about her commentary (and charm).

Was her show exported to the UK? Did the folks there, or other parts of Europe, ever see her show? Did this game make any sense at all to folks back then? The manuals sound exactly like the Elvira character, and I could even hear her voice in my head when I read them. But did kids in London have a clue?

Final scenes after disposing of Emelda:

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Detroit, MI, USA

Posted Wed Oct 16, 2019 6:28 am

That one never nagged me all that much when it came to figuring out where it was coming from. The bodies all look a tad on the tall and skinny side when I look at them in NTSC 4:3, and when bodies don't make you positive, just look for recognizable non circle objects. Like the monitor in this example, from Elviria. In NTSC 4:3 it looks like no monitor I've ever seen, but looks like a normal 4:3 monitor from that time when in PAL mode. And if that monitor looked closer to 16:9 way back in an early 90's game? That's an obvious NTSC design then.


Accolade was a big one in America, and to be sure they put 4:3 NTSC images on the box even... But Accolade was a big name everywhere, similar to EA. EA would publish European software both in Europe and America, and despite EA being an American company, a game like Powermonger was developed by a European company but published by EA worldwide, using 320x200 graphics, but designed on the Amiga with a widescreen look. So in America we got it looking wrong. Of course EA would largely handle American software, be they developing it or publishing it, so I'd certainly start out thinking something from EA should look right in NTSC 4:3 and wrong in PAL lands.

But some European designed stuff does look correct only in NTSC 4:3, notably if they were handling a port from America or Japan where the art assets would have been in 4:3 originally. But even European originals like Hostages, designed on an Atari ST, PAL on the ST did not have extra resolution like the Amiga, and thus many Europeans would have stretched their screens into 4:3 (the ST would still show the widescreen look with black bars by default, you just couldn't add extra pixels to it unlike the Amiga)

The publisher has a lot of control, the final say, without them the game could very well die. They get some say for sure, changing the name of a game like Another World in Europe, developed by Delphine, published by US Gold, but despite their name U.S. Gold had no operations in America, and thus Interplay got to publish that one here... Changed the name to Out of this World, added their logo to the title sequence, stamp of approval, done! They don't tend to mess with the overall game for the most part unless they were involved from the get-go.

Westwood Associates developed Battletech, but it was published by Infocom, and it was Infocom that had the rights to that universe, not Westwood. They farmed it out, not known for their graphic engines, but there's no escaping Infocom's influence in terms of the text of that game. No escaping SSI's involvement in Eye of the Beholder, despite Westwood being responsible for developing that one as well.

Gold Box games developed and published by SSI in America, but US. Gold in Europe... SSI did not have operations in Europe, had to get someone else to publish there. U.S. Gold didn't do anything but change the boxes, never even adding as much as their logo to those games. The game was done, completed, and in that case already out there and published in America, at that point you're just saying "Hey, want to make some free money? Just put the game in a box and ship it stores, thanks!"

So sometimes it's not always as easy as who developed it, who published it, sometimes you've got to make multiple turns to discover the true story. Of course who develops it and publishes it is the perfect place to start, but you never know... I think there are games that won't look correct in any mode... Games where one chunk of it, perhaps the main close up face artwork were done in one country, but maybe the combat engine of the game was farmed out to Europe and developed by scratch there. So when that game is put together what you get is either the main artwork looking right in America, but the combat looking wrong, or in Europe it's the opposite. haha. I know Wing Commaner, despite being designed for DOS originally, all combat graphics for that game were originally farmed out and worked on using DPaint on the Amiga and then brought over to DOS to integrate with the rest of the game. If that had been done in Europe on the Amiga in widescreen, then I've been looking at Wing Commander ships wrong for years, but in Europe they've been looking at all the faces wrong...

Normally things won't get so complicated. In terms of Elvira... No idea myself how big it was overseas, but I wouldn't be surprised if it indeed had a presence. Not only were the movies she showed bad, more importantly, they were public domain I would imagine. AKA that show cost nothing to produce other than sticking a VHS camcorder on the sexy hostess and writing her up some smart ass lines. Perfect show to throw overseas if you think about it. I too have memories of her, mostly from flipping through UHF channels on my black and white TV in my room. I mostly just flipped on to see her though, didn't tend to watch the movies she presented. Tales from the Crypt would kind of replace her for me... While the host was not as attractive, or even living, he was funny and the HBO original stories, while nothing great, were never awful, good for original cable and better than the PD stuff Elvira was usually showing. But I'll never forget my time spent with her of course.

If Elviria or the company behind the show had been more hands on, might even be possible they sent over digitized pics of her to the European company... in fact that would be a problem from time to time, digitizing photos... NTSC or PAL design, sometimes the equipment used to digitize pictures brought them over wrong. Did they resize them to correct it or not? With this particular game, my feeling is she looks like herself in widescreen, and based on your pictures, if you're not playing it in PAL mode than you're stretching it wide in NTSC. But it's when I see an object like the monitor, that's what makes it obvious for me.

Why did a European company develop it in the first place? No idea... Could be Elvira was huge there, take a peek at English Magazine Rack, while a wasteland for American magazines, you will get all the British perspective you could ever hope for, and if you can read German they've got a bunch of that as well. I don't know the history on the game, could be that Elvira's people wanted a game of some sort made of her, and how good a game it's going to be is going to be about who they decide to give the license to, unless they're going to be super hands on, like a Disney would be. Most will go for cheap and easy, and most licensed games will be bad. Working on a show like that, there is no question that Elvira and/or her people would have had experience with the Amiga via the toaster. You don't do a show like that without the Amiga being a major part in it. Maybe they wanted it to be made for the machine they were familiar with, and maybe this European company pitched it well to them. Maybe 5 other companies all pitched it, example, several companies were going after the TSR license, EA among them and they offered TSR more money than SSI did. But EA only wanted one or two games... SSI told TSR they could do it for years and would allow TSR great oversight in terms of story.

Arkanoid was first ported to the home via Discovery on the Amiga.. They went right up to Taito as a CES show and told them they could do it... and I'm wondering if they didn't already have an example ready at the time. Taito, who planned to wait at least a year for home versions of Arkanoid and to do it with someone else, said why not? Perhaps the people behind this game in Europe went up to Elvira's people and shopped it to them. The original Ghostbusters on the C64, by David Crane, was an almost completed game that had nothing to do with ghosts until the license was available to Activision, then it got modified to fit the theme. Could be this company had a nearly complete horror RPG and at the last second threw in Elvira. Could be it was designed from the ground up with tender love and care.

Based on the box art I see for Elvira, I would imagine that the European design company did all the heavy lifting, perhaps approached Elvira and got their blessing. Of course once the game is done, if you're wanting it to make some big money, need to get a good publisher. Wouldn't even surprise me if the game had been completed without any blessing from Elvira's people. Was only their 2nd game I believe. They could have come up to Accolade and said hey, we made this awesome game, can you please convince Elvira to give us the license? lol. Could be that Accolade is the soul reason the game exists, as they were either approached by Elviara or they approached her, and then, knowing their strengths and weaknesses, farmed it out to a company they thought could do the job well. SSI knew they could handle the turn based RPGs, threw it over to Westwood with the real-time stuff. You can thank SSI for Eye of the Beholder for understanding what they were good and bad at and then making the right choices.

That's where reading magazines and interviews might help. Since Accolade seems to have put 4:3 screenshots on the back of the box in America and Europe, it could very well have been Accolade of America doing the main part of that process. Check review dates of American magazines and compare them to Europe, where was it released first? Do not rely on Wiki when it comes to release dates. Would not surprise me if despite the European design that it had been released first in America. Could have been at the exact same time as well, since Accolade published it everywhere. Did this European developer have the know-how to port the game or was that left up to Accolade? I would imagine Accolade took over the ports, much like Broderbund did the first Amiga and DOS ports of Prince of Persia from the Apple II original by Jordan Mechner.

Pure speculation, but it's always fun to dig in, research, and see what turns out to be true, what's false, and what might seem right or wrong but can't be confirmed. When Bob Dinnerman suddenly dropped EA and never made another Amiga game after his hit F/A-18... Rumors at the time mentioned he wanted to do it himself, "you get one hit and it goes to your head!" said the Bandito. Maybe, but he didn't do it himself, he changed the name of his company, used the exact same code from the Amiga FA-18, and partnered with Broderbund, every bit as big as EA at that time, and released Jet Fighter for DOS, which as far as I'm concerned is FA-18, just a different name. Why didn't EA sue? They owned the rights and he did not change that code, I played them both. You don't go off from the big EA just to go to Broderbund, a publicly traded company. Unless... Maybe.... Perhaps the deal Commodore made with EA for that game to be bundled with the Amiga ended up only making EA a lot of money, not its original creator. Commodore has a hot new game that sold out its first run inside of week to sell its new Amiga's, EA likely made way more money by keeping it with the Amiga than they could have possibly made porting it to lesser systems... Everyone's happy except Dinnerman, who changed the name of the game, went to another company, released it for DOS, never to touch an Amiga again.

So much fun thinking this stuff up. Someone will perhaps ask Dinnerman someday, though I'd also like someone to ask Trip Hawkins or an EA person that worked on that project as well, cause if there's drama, then there's two sides to the story, and you don't tell just one (cough David Plessance). Elviira is still pretty active, and while you'd risk going into some serious nerd territory by asking her about the Amiga or that game, in the event she had something to do with it or recalls the Amiga from the show, she'd probably love getting off the usual questions about her boobs for a minute.

I'm not the type to approach those people, I dig in to find as much fact as possible from the time period, read interviews from multiple sides if possible, tell people what's fact, drop the fiction, and with full disclosure perhaps contemplate some interesting theories. Part of the fun of all of this for me is that there are no gaming historians.... No, not even that self titled one... It's not clearly written down in a history book. Nobody with actual interviewing skills would have interest in any single person from the computer industry, minus certain figure heads of monopolistic companies. Bill Gates? Sure. But you'll never see Sid Meijer being interviewed on the Today show. I find enjoyment out of caring about something which is worth caring about, which is worth telling the story, but only to a select group of wonderful people. If it were easy to find all the answers, we wouldn't be here, someone else would be doing it, and probably be doing it better. It's okay to get some things wrong, as long as you're trying to get it right, as long as being wrong provokes learning. Uncover what you can, poll twitter to see if they knew of her prior to the game, if they even cared about this game... Which I'm pretty damn sure would make RPG of the year in some American magazines, so we certainly knew about it! But just because a game is designed in Europe, they knew what they were doing when they chose 320x200 graphics mode... They knew who bought the RPGs and they wanted to sell it here, have no doubt about that one.

This is one I've long slated myself to cover at some point, and I can't wait to dive into all those questions and theories myself when the time comes! May your experience not perplex you, not nag at you, but be pure joy regardless of what you find out.

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