King’s Quest

King's Quest PC Booter Front Cover

Publisher: Sierra
Developer: Sierra
Year: 1984
Platform: DOS; Macintosh; Apple II; Amiga; Sega Master System

Sierra’s first colored adventure game in its most successful series ever, King’s Quest was a fascinating game when it came out. Unfortunately, it doesn’t hold up too much over time.

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Fiction 59 Finals–Champion

Ashley Masterson was the prettiest girl in school. Thanks to our names, she sat directly in front of me.

“I heard you won the school chess tournament, Rollie! Can you teach me sometime?” Her smile was radiant. My palms were sweaty.

“Earth to Roland!” boomed Mr. Daniels.

Ashley turned around–for real this time–and giggled.

K: Poor Roland. Not only is he daydreaming about a girl, he’s also daydreaming about a nickname that sounds less dorky than his actual name. Before I changed dramatically in about ninth grade, this hopeless romantic daydreamer was me. I roll my eyes at Rollie, even while totally understanding and loving the kid. SILVER

MD: Isn’t this a scene in Mean Girls? Well, the sexes are switched, but I’m pretty sure it’s Mean Girls. That’s the thing that’s bringing this story down — it’s a semi-cliche picture of a nerdy guy’s school existence. I otherwise have nothing against it. It’s clear, succinct, and a perfectly fine portrayal of a scene in everyday life. Technically, the other story is all of these things, too. It just includes a tiny bit extra imagination (from the writer, and not just the characters), and so it gets the nod from me. SILVER

W: Wow, both of you decided to use children for your stories today. I love that Roland succeeds, but not through his initial plan (well, ok, his initial plan was working, but getting called out by an authority figure clinched the deal). The stakes are small, but this story is very cute and accessible. GOLD

 

So, I lost the finals on 2-1 ballot. My opponent’s story was very good, so no qualms about losing this one. It was fun to get to play every week. And I’ll be participating in another writing competition in a couple of months, so look forward to more stories then!

 

Fiction 59 Semifinals–Thief

The bedroom door creaked. Jennifer was sure the coast was clear, but sighed with relief when a quick survey revealed nobody. Tip-toeing, she entered.

She had always wanted a little girl. A baby wouldn’t hit her or be mean. A baby would love her. Now was her chance. Without hesitation, she swiped Mom’s pills and headed for the toilet.

K: Smart and fun twist. We have dark, then what?, then dark, then fun. Sure, this isn’t the kind of thing Jennifer should do, but her heart’s in the right place, right? Again, the characters shine through despite not interacting. GOLD

MD: Compared to the other entries, this is straight-forward. No flowery, purple prose here. Is this an extension on the story of the kid who gets beat up after catching her parents having sex? The only downfall of this story is that the age of the narrator isn’t clear. She’s old enough to know what those pills do, but young enough to think her abusive parents having more babies is a good plan. BRONZE

W: At first, I thought this was an homage to Raising Arizona. Now, I’m not quite sure what sort of demented Coen Brothers scenario was imagined. Maybe, I’m just being a little dense here (and, like with Pepper’s last story, I just struggle to put myself in the mind of a female character), but is she trying to induce labor? increase fertility? What is up with the pills? Nonetheless, I like this story a little more than the first one. BRONZE

The winner this week scored two gold medals and a silver. Third place scored two silvers. That means I eked out second place by one point and am headed to the finals! The final prompt will be about a “champion” and results will be posted here sometime on Tuesday.

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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