2022 Games

Games are added as I write about them, not in order of playing (necessarily).

1. The Incredible Machine (1993)

One of the first games I wanted to put in the 2022 list was The Incredible Machine (actually the enhanced version The Even More Incredible Machine). It was published by Sierra On-Line/Dynamix and developed by Jeff Tunnell Productions, and because of this, the rights to the game are not part of the Microsoft-Activision Blizzard juggernaut—whenever (if?) that closes.

Old games that you don't have a strong nostalgia attachment to are often a hard sell, and I feel that has definitely hit hard with TIM, so it may be biased to say that it reminds me of Widget Workshop (released a few years later) but much worse. In addition to having a much smaller screen (it is DOS, after all), TIM's objects play by different rules. Some objects respond to gravity, some don't. Some objects have interactions (mice are attracted by cheese, balloons will pop on contact with sharp objects), some don't. With Widget Workshop, all objects have wired input/output. They may look like a bunch of random things doing stuff but the game's in-game help (which it has, while TIM forces you to read the manual) explains that. But then again...Widget Workshop has its own quirks and I can see why some might prefer TIM in the first place.

2. Cro-Mag Rally (2000)

I don't put Cro-Mag Rally (re-released this year by Jorio, now with an Itch.io page) on the same levels of Bugdom, Nanosaur, and the like not because it's a different genre, but rather it's not a good game. On the surface, it's a bit like a ripoff of Mario Kart, a themed racing kart game with items to manipulate the standing of the races. While Jorio's ports are excellent on a mechanical level and is amazing on bringing old Mac games into modernity without compromising the core vision, CMR, in its original form, is quite frustrating and cannot execute on its premise without major frustrations.

The other problem that really stands out is that it feels so incomplete. I am of course familiar with The Cutting Room Floor, and the games that have cuts so obvious they have stitches visible when they come out to retail (Nintendo generally does a great job at smoothing out cut content so it's less obvious). The idea seems to be that you move through early civilization with the courses, ending around the Bronze Age, but it kind of seems to trail off at that point, and even in Crete, you still don't have any characters besides the caveman and cavewoman (Brog and Grag). The Jorio port tries to improve that somewhat with additional clothing choices based after multiplayer palette swaps but it's still the same two models, and they're both ugly, even for late 1990s cavemen models.

Given that in one course (Atlantis), the carts are switched out for submarines with a different control scheme, maybe the original plan was that there was more of a pronounced time travel element and they'd have different clothing as they went through time, but if there was ever a point that happened it all got cut for what we have today...which is a shame because it would have distinguished it from something like Mario Kart into its own identity.

3. Final Fantasy IV (1991)

I beat Final Fantasy VI (Final Fantasy III as was released in the West, the Japanese versions of II, III, and V were never released in the U.S. for years, and FFVII was the one was the one that reset the numbering system), but Final Fantasy IV, released as Final Fantasy II when it first hit American store shelves back in November 1991, I had never really touched. I recently played a bit of it on a 3DS (emulated) but haven't gone back to it since part of my progress was not saved somehow.

One of the things I noted while playing is how your party is never consistent, and I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not. I'm sure that story-wise everyone will be re-united at some point, but so far, your first companion, Kain, is swapped out for Rydia, then Tellah joins and is swapped out for Edward, then Rosa joins, then Yang joins, and you briefly have a full party before Rosa leaves again. Then everyone disappears, and you get Palom and Porom, two wiz, er, wizard kids. Then Tellah re-joins you.

I've heard some people say that IV is better than VI. I think there's some argument to be made, there's better pacing and your characters are actually useful (I don't think I ever used Relm and Setzer beyond what the story required), but in terms of presentation and story, VI wins (even with whatever you think of Woolsey's translation, it's miles ahead of the broken English in IV)...and if you wanted something like VI but with better pacing and more useful characters, there's Chrono Trigger, and when it comes to JRPGs on the Super NES it just doesn't stack up, especially when you throw in Nintendo's own entries, like Super Mario RPG or EarthBound.

4. The Colonel's Bequest (1989)

I'm not sure exactly why I gave The Colonel's Bequest, a 1989 game by Sierra On-Line a spin. Sierra games just aren't the same fun hijinks of the LucasArts games--in addition to worse writing, Sierra's games are notorious for having players get stuck or die.

Playable through both Archive.org's built in DOS emulator and ScummVM (should you find the files you need, and while the forums will not tell you, it's not hard to find). The game's plot revolves around staying in an old mansion with a bunch of people (excluding Laura) who stand to inherit a fortune, though almost everyone will be killed before the end of the night. Most of the game seems to be stumbling around and picking up information, but death is a constant threat. Have Laura walk toward the deteriorating railings means a fatal fall to the first floor, and should you get to the first floor in one piece, there's an above-average chance that walking in the center of the rug means a chandelier will drop on you. Sierra adventure games meant that not only death is constant and not immediately obvious, there are parts where it's easy to do the wrong thing. You can find an old soup bone in the cabinet but you shouldn't give it to the dog until a later act. In Colonel's Bequest it doesn't matter as much unless you're trying to go for a high score, but it reflects the Sierra design philosophy (and by extension, older adventure games) of trying to screw the player as much as possible. Therefore, it's not a particularly rewarding experience to go through the game blind...assuming you make it through the night.

5. Crystal Quest (1987)

Crystal Quest was one of the first big Mac games (and the first color one). You pilot a small disc-shaped ship that responds to the direction and velocity of the mouse, trying to collect gems, avoid enemies, and get out of the level without killing yourself in the process. It's a fond memory to me but it's highly dated (and doesn't work properly in some of the later emulators). It was ported to other systems later on, the first of which being the original Game Boy.

Data East ported the game with new title music, but the only sound effect that was kept was the one where you pass through the end of level gate, though sampled at a much lower sampling rate (not the original one was great quality).

There were also a few more modern ports released (Xbox 360, iOS), but none of them were mouse-controlled like the original (nor really had a lot of staying power, given how those games are basically unavailable now), and mostly I wanted to bring up Crystal Quest because thanks to resource_dasm, I was able to extract the sounds from the game! Grab 'em here!!

6. Stunt Race FX (1994)

I'm a little surprised that I never added Stunt Race FX to my previous list, because I do remember playing it through the "Expert" courses...though emulators until very recently haven't managed to play it properly or at all, which differentiates it from the other SNES games, as classics like Link to the Past or Super Mario World have been quite playable for over two decades...which is a shame because the time I got to play this game on a real Super Nintendo was in the year 2004. The cars are somewhat hard to control and its based on an arcade-like timer rather than just trying to beat a score, but it's admirable because it has hills and features when a lot of racing games (even Super Mario Kart) did not, and I still think that the second course, Aqua Tunnel, is great. It turns out that having a glass-walled tunnel would be a feat of engineering but impractically expensive on a grand scale.

More to be added soon!