In The 1st Degree

In the 1st Degree Windows 3.x Front Cover

Publisher: Brøderbund
Developer: Brøderbund
Year: 1995
Platform: Windows, Macintosh

While I have yet to see an excellent game based in the courtroom (and, from the looks of things, I’m not optimistic), Brøderbund has at least provided us with an entertaining, user-friendly drama in this underrepresented genre. You play D.A. Granger, attempting to convict an artist of murdering his friend and business partner, an affluent San Francisco museum curator. The detective on the case has provided you with relevant documents and videos of her interrogations of the witnesses. Afterwards you must interview the witnesses and then go to court, hoping they won’t change their stories once you get there. Your goal, of course, is a 1st degree murder conviction.

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Fiction 59 Quarterfinals–Rebel

“I’ve decided to quit the team, Coach.” I gave him permission on the condition he talk to Coach directly and state his reasons. “Because I’m not having fun. You get angry even when I try my hardest.” Wow. Didn’t think he had it in him. “Okay bye.” He hung up the phone, his hands trembling. “I did it, Dad.”

K: Heh…I had to go back and see what the prompt was after this one. I like the POV on this one, focusing on Dad instead of Coach. This has to be a difficult moment for the kid, but I know coaches like this and I see why he’d do this. SILVER

MD: Without the prompt, this story wouldn’t make sense as anything other than a random snapshot of a phone call. Luckily, we have the prompt, and this gives the story more poignancy. This kid is potentially rebelling against multiple strong male figures in his life: the mean coach who is ruining sports for the kid; and his dad, who appears to lack belief in his child and probably sees quitting as a sign of weakness. I like the nuance, and hopefully I’m not imagining it. GOLD

W: The rare supportive parent has been mostly absent throughout this season. The story here is fine, but the stakes are pretty small because we’re observing the internal conflict of one character dealing with possible disappointing another character through a third character.

The story is from my life, though it was 20 years ago, so my memory of the dialogue may be a bit off. In other news, my scores were good enough to advance me to the semifinals! The next prompt will be about a thief. Results posted here next Monday.

Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned

Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned Windows Front Cover

Publisher: Sierra
Developer: Sierra
Year: 1999
Platform: Windows

Once again Jane Jensen and Sierra decide to completely overhaul the game’s design for the third adventure in this popular series. This time around we are given 3-D rendered graphics and gameplay from the first person perspective, and an increased difficulty level that doesn’t rely solely on finding the correct hotspot to click.

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Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist

Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist DOS Front Cover

Publisher: Sierra
Developer: Sierra
Year: 1993
Platform: Windows, DOS, Macintosh

In the midst of creating two crappy Leisure Suit Larry games, Al Lowe decided to top it off with a crappy wild west story. The game starts out promising with a hilarious introduction, sung by Al Lowe himself, about Freddy Pharkas’ history and how he came to be a pharmacist in the western town of Coarsegold, California. But it doesn’t take long for the game to sink into tedium and endless babble intended to be humorous. Many of the jokes pay homage to Blazing Saddles, an obvious inspiration for the game, but aren’t delivered near as well. And the material isn’t fresh any longer.

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Fiction 59–Monster

“Mrs. Harris, I doubt you would intentionally harm your child.”

Susan’s first year in child protection was proving difficult. She watched Tyler scramble into the squad car.

“Still, the tox screen was positive. Get sober, and we’ll help him return home.”

Susan almost regretted sneaking cocaine into Tyler’s sippy cup. However, she would do anything to save these children.

K: Here’s one of our trademark cynical stories. I think this can work, but the reveal is kind of awkward and it feels like “Exposition Hell,” as those in the business call it. The characters feel more like cutouts and cliches than real people, and it’s hard to score as a result. BRONZE

MD: Hm. Someone’s trying to appeal to the social worker in me. FINALLY. I like how this starts off with Mrs. Harris and Susan possibly being the same person, only to develop (as slowly as possible in 59 words) into a story about a social worker Gone Bad and spiking a kid’s drink. She tries to justify it with good intentions, but jesus. What if Tyler had actually used the sippy cup!? BRONZE

W: Oh my. What a way to capture the twisted logic in the minds of people struggling with addiction (or other mental health problems). I thankfully don’t know much about the CHiPS program, but how much unsupervised time would a mother have with her son to be able to pull this off? GOLD

For the record, Susan hates people who do drugs, but by itself that’s not always enough to remove a child from the home. So she makes sure the kids fail tox screens so she can rip them away from their parents. Also, for the record, I am not aware of a child protection worker ever doing this, anywhere.

My scores were also good enough to land me in fourth place for the season! The playoffs begin Monday, and I get to write about a rebel.

Dracula: The Resurrection

Dracula: The Resurrection Windows Front Cover

Publisher: Dreamcatcher
Developer: index+
Year: 2000
Platform: Windows; Mac; Playstation

Taking place seven years after the events in Bram Stoker’s novel, Jonathan Harker must travel to Transylvania to rescue Mina (who has been bitten by Dracula, apparently reincarnated) and defeat the vampire once and for all. An incredibly easy game that can be won in a day or two, Dracula: The Resurrection is intriguing but ultimately unsatisfying.

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Culpa Innata

Culpa Innata Windows Front Cover

Publisher: Strategy First
Developer: Momentum AS
Year: 2007
Platform: Windows

Many in the adventure game community fall all over themselves praising ambitious new games (see: Syberia), seemingly regardless of the quality.  Culpa Innata is no exception, an incredibly ambitious game, that while excellent at times, needs to be held to a higher standard if the genre has any hope of reviving.

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Fiction 59–Artist

Louisa picked up a checker. “If I move it there, it looks like a tree!”

Harry squirmed on his elbows. “But that’s against the rules!”

“Or here, and it becomes a spaceship!”

“Mom!” Harry ran to the kitchen. “Lou’s not following the rules!”

Louisa ignored her brother. “And if I move these…” She smiled proudly. “It’s a unicorn!”

K: I can dig this. Harry’s obsessed with the game and Lou’s obsessed with the art. I do like a story where both characters are the good guy and the bad guy in their own way; funny that something this simple would be the one to manage the feat best this week. BRONZE

MD: This doesn’t involve kittens. Boo. However, this also doesn’t involve child molestation. YAY! It’s endearing and normal, and oh my god, I’m so relieved. SILVER

W: I liked the children celebrating Namirala more, but Louisa is cute enough. I have a brother who made a living sandbagging games he was growing bored playing, so I completely understand Harry’s exasperation.

I’m definitely Harry. When I was in kindergarten, I would tattle on kids who didn’t follow the rules. I’ve grown up a lot since then. Now I just keep to myself and stew for hours about why anyone would ever not want to follow the rules. Needless to say, I’m not an artist!

I have slipped back to fifth place in the standings with one week left. However, I put some distance between myself and 7th place. Making the playoffs is not a

The Colonel’s Bequest

The Colonel's Bequest DOS Front Cover

Publisher: Sierra
Developer: Sierra
Year: 1989
Platform: DOS; Amiga; Atari ST

Sadly, The Colonel’s Bequest is one of the best adventures Roberta Williams created. Returning to the roots she laid down in her first game, Mystery House, Roberta attempts to create a murder mystery that not only spooks but befuddles the player. It is befuddling, but not in the way Williams intended.

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Fiction 59–Student

The quick reb fox

Flustered, Terrence started over.

The quick red fox jumped ovr teh lazey

Why was this so hard?

The quik fox red jum

He tore out the sheet, fighting back tears.

“Hey Terr, wanna shoot some hoops?”

He nodded. Something he was good at. He closed the notebook, grabbed his dorm key, and joined his roommate.

K: Ah, yes, another one that does both depressing and funny. Tragically funny, but whatever. The setup and tone sets the payoff up beautifully. BRONZE

MD: So much is going on here. 59 words, and you manage to encapsulate a learning disorder; the fact that the learning disorder did not keep this kid out of college because, most likely, he played basketball well enough to get a scholarship; and enough empathy to not be mad or feel this kid is “coasting” on a sports scholarship. GOLD

W: Again, the things in the final paragraph that are left unspoken really help this story. My only quibble is that if his inability to write could push Terrence to tears, would he really be so willing to quit just to play basketball? That doesn’t seem as persuasive knowing that he’s old enough to live in a dorm. SILVER


I recently watched a documentary about kids similar to the one in the story. One student was hiding his Dr. Seuss books so his friends didn’t know he couldn’t read. Anyway, I remain in third place with just two weeks to go. Playoffs are certainly not a lock. Next story has to be about an artist.