Manhunter New York – Part 1

After very briefly taking a look at Origin’s IIGS ports in the last post, I thought I should try out a game that was actually enhanced for the IIGS. One of Sierra’s AGI games seemed like the obvious choice so I’m going to be replaying a childhood favourite of mine – Manhunter New York.

Sierra’s AGI engine was effectively a virtual machine within which their games would run. This meant that once that VM was ported to another platform, in theory at least, all of their games would then be compatible. It was all quite slick for the time but not without consequences. Since AGI had originally targeted the PC Jr’s very limited sound and graphics capabilities, the upshot was that all the AGI games looked years out of date when ported to everything else. Even the Amiga versions of these games were near enough the same down to the beepy music and low res graphics. If you wanted to show off the capabilities of your Amiga, you wouldn’t have touched these Sierra games with a barge pole.

For whatever reason, the Apple IIGS actually saw slightly enhanced ports of a number of these Sierra games. They still didn’t exactly push the system but they are a real curiosity for someone who grew up on AGI games like myself. At one point in my life, I would have told anyone without irony that Manhunter was the best game ever. I won’t be telling you that here but playing this again will be a definite nostalgia trip. I still know the game inside-out so I’m expecting to play through it at some speed.

IMG_20180122_184122 IMG_20180122_184138

Before that, I’ll take a look at the box for the PC version. It’s in a typical late 80’s Sierra slipcase with the back showing the Murrys who developed the game dressed up in brown cloaks as Manhunters. This is the same team that developed The Ancient Art Of War some years earlier, a title I will definitely be playing at some point on this blog.

IMG_20180122_184157   IMG_20180122_184129

The inside of the box is stuffed full of disks and paperwork. The day-glow pages in the manual were probably an attempt to throw off photocopiers since it’s also used for keyword copy protection every time you start the game. The included map has lots of information most of which will be used in the games puzzles in one shape or form. You can still finish the game without it but it definitely helps.

To get around to those IIGS enhancements, the graphics changes are so subtle as to be almost non-existent with an altered palette being used for some screens. This is minimal being mainly seen in more realistic skin tones than the Tandy could manage. There is also a slight tweak in the credits sequence to add the author of the IIGS port on the side of a box in the alley. The major difference is in the sound with the music being ported to the IIGS’s MIDI synthesizer and in some cases new pieces being composed. The IIGS also uses digitized sound effects throughout rather than the usual beeps.

To illustrate, I’ll break habit and use video which if nothing else is a chance to see if my new phone is any better at capturing video from CRT’s. First off, here is the intro and early stages of Manhunter running on a Tandy:-

And now, the all new and improved IIGS port:-

I have to say that I’m already won over by the changes. It’s still so close to the original that the nostalgia isn’t lost which is a good thing in my case. The music isn’t fantastic but is an improvement and the actual sound effects have to be better than PC speaker. As for the ability of my phone for videoing this stuff, it’s debatable but isn’t any worse than my last one. It’s a whole lot better for photos at any rate which will certainly help.

What is blatantly missing from this port is some proper mouse controls. The Manhunter series was highly unusual among AGI games in that it dropped the text parser entirely and used a context sensitive icon instead. This had to be controlled using the cursors on PC and was always crying out for being mouse driven instead. Sierra have added mouse control on the IIGS but all it does is slowly move the cursor to the position on the screen you clicked at which point you can press return to select whatever you clicked on. I’m not impressed with this but it’s no doubt still due to the underlying AGI engine which is in effect being automatically driven by a bolted on bit of mouse handling code.

The interface is a bit of a lost opportunity then but I’m still looking forward to playing this again. I’ll take a look at the game and storyline in the next post when I’ve played through the rest of the game.

Origin Hot Releases Flyer (1989)

AIMG_20180121_183042

It’s about time I had something Origin on here so I’ve had a route around to see what else hasn’t made it onto the blog. I haven’t got much left that is on the more glamorous end of collectibles. Instead I present this unassuming “Hot Releases Flyer” folder from 1989.

AIMG_20180121_183032  AIMG_20180121_183054

I’ve shown a few press releases on here before but this is particular flyer was aimed at dealers. This doesn’t appear to have been standard practice for Origin at the time as it starts with an email from Fred Schmidt (VP at Origin) who wants a covering flyer of some description to be sent along with copies of all Origin’s games to various dealers that are being targeted to sell Origin games. It has a first stab at the cover text which would be largely redone later.

AIMG_20180121_183256AIMG_20180121_183231

By the time of this second email, Marten Davies (Sales Director) has had a go at rewriting it and a further enhanced version is typed up on a Mac and printed on Origin headed paper.

AIMG_20180121_183220AIMG_20180121_183106

That gets a border stuck round the edge, printed out on cheap paper and presumably sent off for approval coming back with a few suggested amendments ultimately leading to the flyer on the right printed on nice thick linen paper. The folder says 100 copies on the front so presumably this got sent out to numerous dealers back at the end of 1989. I always tend to think of the development side of making games but with Origin self-publishing they ultimately were responsible for the whole process at this point in their life.

As for the flyer itself, there is nothing too exciting in the content. You may note that the C64 and Apple II were coming before the PC at this point which wouldn’t last much longer. The Ultima games are substantially more expensive than all their other titles, (even the new releases). There is no question what made the money at Origin in the 80’s.

The other thing I noticed on here was the IIGS port of Omega. Only two Origin games were ever ported to the IIGS, Windwalker being the second. I fired both of these up out of curiosity expecting some enhancements but they are exact ports of the versions I’ve already played taking no advantage of the IIGS graphics or sound. In fact, due to the slow processor of the IIGS they would be a little painful to play so I’ll leave those well alone for now. Both of these games were ported by Micromagic who had a fairly short lifespan doing this sort of project but worked on some major titles around this time including Starflight 1 & 2, Curse of the Azure Bonds and Pools of Darkness.

The Horde Review – PC Format

This will be a short one as I found all of one review for The Horde in the July 1994 PC Format. They liked it a whole lot less than I did citing the repetitive gameplay and lack of enough to do.

doc0003

I don’t have the issue but it was also reviewed in the July 1994 PC Zone. They used to include scores from the old issues at the end of their magazine which are usually my first port of call to figure out which months I need to look at to find a given game. In contrast, they gave it 87% saying “Not an original concept but extremely well implemented.”

The Horde – Part 3

IMG_20180112_144812

I was just starting out in the swamp lands at the end of part 2. These didn’t prove to be much of a challenge all told with enemies usually attacking from the East and all my cows out to the West. Planting trees slowly drains the land which slows all the alligator horde right down allowing plenty of time for me to get my act together when they attack.

I’m starting to make much more use of my powerups during these sections, especially the boots of haste which make me run around much quicker for about 30 seconds. I’ll be using these near enough all the time from here on out. The teleportation ring is also handy for rescuing cows if I’m attacked from the other side.

IMG_20180112_153541 IMG_20180112_153721

After 5 years in the swamps, it’s back to the castle with a whole heap of money. The chancellor is trying to spread a rumour that I’ve got the plague and should be confined to the dungeons. Chauncey points out that the spots are actually red stickers. He then catches the chancellor playing with his dolls before being presented with the deeds to a desert village.

As you may gather, the videos get ever more juvenile as the game goes on. You would think they were aimed at a seriously young audience but the game itself has too much going on for younger kids. They are still fun in these occasional small doses but if the game relied on the FMV for gameplay I would probably grow to hate them.

IMG_20180112_161706

The desert land proves to be a serious challenge. I can’t do anything on the sand tiles of the map and need to dig out water channels to slowly irrigate the land. I can only dig in already irrigated areas so this is slow going. My village gets repeatedly wiped out in the first year until I realise how useful the spiky traps are. These kill most hordlings if they walk over them and liberally spreading them about the place makes my life a whole lot easier. It has to be said that the defenders you can buy (archers and knights) are near useless by comparison despite being more expensive.

The new hordlings in this realm tunnel around in the sand and knock down buildings instantly. They aren’t too keen on water though.

IMG_20180112_181149

I spend the first two years losing money while slowly spreading my network of water channels. Eventually I have a big enough are to wall off a huge section and spread out my maximum allotted 30 cows. It took me a while to discover it but the overhead view shown above can be used in both strategy and action sections. The strategy section can be entirely played out like this and I used this increasingly as the game went on. I also discovered by this point that if you spread the cows out the ground doesn’t get overgrazed so I don’t have to move them around at all.

IMG_20180112_175410  IMG_20180112_183509

There was a bit of a side quest on this level where a frog in a tree wants me to feed it. I wasn’t sure what this meant until I spotted a strange icon on the ground some time later which I could dig up and then place by the tree. After several of these, I’m rewarded with a meteor causing trident which I can’t say I ever actually used.

IMG_20180112_185811 IMG_20180112_185900

After 6 years in the swamps, I have a healthy bank balance again. The chancellor is now trying to spread rumours of my death saying that these boxers are the only thing left. Chauncey walks in at this point of course only to be awarded yet more land, this time in the frozen north.

IMG_20180112_190213

These last levels would be extremely tricky if I wasn’t coming into them with a load of cash. The new enemies here are yeti that take loads of hits to kill, turn any ground they walk on into snow which I can’t build on and roll giant snowballs around destroying buildings in a single hit.

My strategy here is to hunker down and simply survive the 7 years. I have at this point bought a Morningstar powerup which makes me invulnerable for 10 seconds while I’m spinning a giant spiky ball that kills anything in a single hit. This is invaluable for taking out the yeti. By the end of 7 years, I have about 2000 gp left over but return to the king having wiped out the horde…

IMG_20180112_201301 IMG_20180112_201304

… or at least that’s what I thought. The king makes me his heir which infuriates the chancellor so much that he reveals himself at last as a member of the horde.

IMG_20180112_201334IMG_20180112_201425

In a mirror of the introduction, Chauncey chokes him to death with a chicken leg, leaving behind a red pile of goo with eyes

IMG_20180112_201458 IMG_20180112_201506 IMG_20180112_201517

He becomes heir to the realm and lives happily ever after, or at least until the hinted at sequel which never happened.

I’m not going to say it was brilliant but I really liked The Horde. It’s well made with lots of variety in the levels. Each new realm seemed to subvert my strategy from the previous one causing me to have to try something new each time. The presentation was good for the era and the two contrasting styles of gameplay actually worked well together.

The FMV was probably all shot on one location in a day or two but it was amusing enough and added a little incentive to get to the end. I kind of liked the way Chauncey went from bumbling idiot to smug hero over the course of the 5 realms.

The CD-audio music is worthy of a mention and I liked the way the graphics all changed for every realm down to completely new villager sprites, tree types, etc.. I could have done with a little more screen resolution for the overhead view but it’s a limitation of the 3DO. Mouse controls would have been nice as well so the PC version would no doubt have some advantages.

The Horde comes recommended by me. I’ll see what reviews I can dig out for the next post and find out whether the UK gaming press agreed.

The Horde – Part 2

IMG_20180111_190323   IMG_20180111_190654

Having delved further, I’m coming to the conclusion that there is a lot more to The Horde than I recalled. I went back and finished off the Shimto Plains level and then got sent to the tree realms of Alburga. This is a highly wooded area but I’m warned early on that the trees contain spirits and I shouldn’t cut them down. Indeed doing so knocks chunks off my health thereby ruining my strategy of using loads of trees.

IMG_20180111_190924 IMG_20180111_194050

So instead to raise money I turn to cows. These cost 100 gp but return 25 gp for each season of grazing. The snag is that the horde will eat them up given opportunity which could get seriously expensive. I counter this by building a huge wall and placing them all inside. This is all well and good except these giant herds much their way through all the grass creating rocky ground that they then can’t graze on so I have to move them all about after each season. It’s well worth it as the returns are much better than they were for trees provided I can afford all the cows in the first place. There is a real knock on effect in this game. If you don’t earn enough cash in those early levels, you are going to struggle later on. I know I could have played those better in hindsight and am hoping I did well enough not to hit a brick wall in later levels.

Another bit of complexity I’d forgotten about is that you randomly get news reports halfway through some years which have effects on the game such as hot weather affecting crops, the tax collectors going missing so you don’t have to pay for a year and the like. These all get little FMV scenes to announce them. It’s a nice touch possibly adding replay value but not hugely affecting gameplay.

Finally some of the lands have unique enemies. The ones here are sneaky little thief hordlings that hide in trees, shoot at me and usually run away at speed when I get close to them. This level also introduced wizard hordlings who can teleport around. Thankfully, these are in short supply so my cows remained safe.

IMG_20180111_201722

I actually had to play 4 years to get through the second map. Apparently this increases with each location meaning I’ll have to do 7 years in the final world. Chauncey should be about ready to keel over by the end of this game but they clearly live longer or have very short seasons wherever this is set.

IMG_20180111_201920

The King awards me with a new title and more deeds, this time for a swampy land where I have to plant trees to reclaim land from the swamp. The unique enemies here are alligators who swim around the swamp at great speed but aren’t much use on the ground. All the more incentive to claim back the land with trees. So far I’ve only been attacked from the East meaning I can have a huge herd of cows to the West happily grazing in the swamp. At some point I’m sure I’ll need to move them.

This is actually a pretty nice little game so far. It came across as simplistic initially but there is some real depth to it and variation in the levels. It’s highly unusual to have no penalties for removing anything from the map which arguably makes proceedings less strategic. Any wall, tree, cow, etc.. that I place on the map can be removed at any point for a full refund. It’s seemingly vital to exploit this right before moving to the next map as nothing you have bought will carry over leaving you potentially penniless at the start of a new level. This looks like something of an oversight and maybe isn’t how I’m supposed to play. I’ll stick with whatever works either way.