Over the past two decades, the gaming world has been splashed with “retro” titles. Games like Galaga, Frogger, and even Pong made ripples in the pond during the late 70s and into the early 80s. Hasbro Interactive re-released (perhaps reinvented) the original classic formula. Adventure games were no stranger to gamers during this time, but not all enjoyed commercial success. This month, Abstraction Games gave us a trifecta such games made memorable by their cult following. 8 Bit Adventure Anthology Volume 1 includes a trio of games originally developed by Mindscape for the Apple Macintosh and later ported to the NES. These games are Shadowgate, Déjà vu, and The Uninvited.
The first of these “Macventure” games is called The Uninvited. Originally released in 1985, it follows the adventures of a young man in search of his sister in a haunted house. You search for clues and puzzles to be solved to peel back the layers of mystery surrounding the house’s inhabitants.
The 1986 release of Déjà vu chronicles the following of a man who wakes up in a bathroom stall. He has no recollection of who he is or what has happened to him. As you find clues, your character has bouts of (yep, you guessed it) déjà vu. These glimpses into your past eventually help you piece together the mystery surrounding your identity.
Shadowgate originally released in 1987. Here, a warrior simply tries to defeat the Warlock Lord before he releases a Behemoth from the depths of Hell. On a side note, this game was more recently ported to iOS. You can read our review of that gamer on our web site.
All three games follow the point-and-click formula that made these titles unique during their original release. You interact one screen at a time, walking corridors and interacting with objects. These interactions include “Look”, “Open”, “Search”, “Move”, “Use”, and others. Just like in other adventure games, not all of these interactions work with every object or corridor. But that’s part of the challenge with these games.
Details, Details, Details!
Success in these Adventure Anthology games are all in the DETAILS! You have to explore and interact with every little thing you come across. There are points where you might miss a subtle detail that can change the scope of your progress (or in many cases, regression). For example, in Shadowgate, you come across a point in the castle where you seemingly can go no further. There can’t possibly be something you missed, right? Or was there. Backtracking to the entrance yields a skull above the main door that you open. Doing so reveals a key that allows you to progress further into the castle. Those little things will make a big difference as you adventure further, and they become a common theme throughout each of the games. The ports themselves do well to stick to the genuine formula from the NES. The music and graphics will both give you plenty of positive flashbacks to a time when gaming was simpler, yet challenging.
On a side note, the developers added interesting achievements to the Xbox One version (presumably mirrored with trophies on PS4). The most memorable scoring opportunity for me also took place in Shadowgate. Towards the beginning of your quest, you end up in a cavern with what appears to be a dragon. As you interact with the myriad of objects before you, the dragon breathes fire. You are intended to defend yourself with a shield. If you hang around too long and end up roasted, you’re rewarded with 50 gamer points. That’s nothing to sneeze at in the world of achievement hunters. That number of points is usually reserved for sizable accomplishments such as tough boss fights. Being rewarded for simply standing around is kind of neat.
“8-Bit Adventure Anthology Volume 1” Final Verdict
8-Bit Adventure Anthology certainly hits the nostalgia chords. However, those that have evolved with the gaming industry may find frustration with these mechanics. The slow cursor movement between commands and the interaction screen can get frustrating at times. This is especially true in situations where you frequently strike out while searching for the correct interaction and/or object. Obviously, these games are designed for mouse movement, so expect to labor a bit for results.
In summation, the 8-Bit Adventure Anthology presents these games well by staying true to their original form. There is little-to-no technological error, which is refreshing. Newer gamers who check out this collection out of curiosity might find their interest short-lived. Only those seasoned gamers or true fans of the originals will find full value in these current gene releases.
“8-Bit Adventure Anthology Volume 1” is available for the Xbox One, PS4, Linux, Mac, and PC. This review was based on an Xbox One review copy provided to The Gaming Outsider by Reverb Communications.