Retro-gaming Update: Chimera, AGC and Christminster

A while ago I had some nostalgia for a proper ZX Spectrum isometric game. So, I didn't do anything sensible, like play a classic such as Head Over Heels. No, I got a copy of Chimera, a budget label isometric game I played over 20 years ago. I never got very far with it, but that's probably because I was very young, right? I could beat it now!

As I have limited time nowadays, even with arbitrary save/restore, I felt I didn't have quite the edge to get through it and see how it panned out without a lot of pain, so I found a map and walkthrough. I followed it. It was clear that there would have been a lot of tedious exploration otherwise, creating my own map. It also soon became clear that the game design consisted of traversing a the longest routes the game designer could make, repeatedly. There are no actual moving baddies. Failure at the trial-and-error necessary to work out what does what leads to instant death and the going right back to the start. Fundamentally, the game is a race against the clock, but different events speed up the clock. For example, being in a room with a radiator seems to speed up the water clock something like a hundred-fold, thus totally unbalancing the game. It was so poorly set up that even with the walkthrough and map, and saving and restoring to optimise things, I still somehow managed to end up running out on the timers, and needing to use some pokes to complete the game.

Apparently I hadn't failed to complete the game because I was young. I failed to complete it because it was badly designed and tedious rubbish.

More rewarding have been the text adventures. After playing some commercial titles, I thought I'd try a couple of the more popular amateur efforts. I made my way through the Adventure Consumer's Guide, which was surprisingly fun. You get a sidekick who is vital to many of the problems, but also acts as a subtle hints mechanism. Mostly, however, the hints aren't necessary, since it's a fairly friendly game. As I said, lots of fun, and recommended.

Christminster is a bit of a classic in the 'IF' (interactive fiction) world. I'd tried to get into it a couple of times before, but never really clicked. The start, being a linear and not particularly helpful set of puzzles, had previously blocked me from exploring the game. So, I swallowed my pride and looked at a couple of hints. This allowed me into the main section of the game, and also gave me an insight into the author's mind, useful for solving following puzzles.

While there are plenty of puzzle components, and you're not lead round on rails, there is something of a plot to it, which makes a nice change from wondering around looking for a relatively unmotivated puzzle to solve. I'm now about halfway through (judging by my score), without having used any more hints, although I'm at a bit of an impasse now. Something to plug away at from time to time, I guess.

Posted 2011-09-27.