Several people have asked me why I haven’t yet said a peep about the new remastered edition of LucasArts’ classic adventure Day of the Tentacle – and there are actually only two reasons: it’s probably not going to run on any of my current computers (which is somewhat ironic!) and I simply haven’t gotten around to it yet. So, after my skeptical opinion about the new version of Grim Fandango last year, what’s my take on this one? In short, I think it’s awesome – from what I’ve seen in the Trailer, the Making Of and in some other Youtube videos, this is a whole different effort than Grim Fandango and more in the style of the two Monkey Island remasters that were made some time ago.
This means that the whole artwork has been redrawn from its 320×200 original, something which makes a lot of sense since the background and characters were originally hand drawn. There were actually some rumours that the sad remnants of LucasArts had tried to do a pseudo-3D version of the game shortly before they were bought up by Disney, although this upgraded 2D rendition is a much better approach and stays completely true to the original. The artwork is actually so precise that it looks like a pixel grid was removed and the voices and music were also remastered, but I think the original version is still one of the best adventures ever made. One of the reasons I’m not really rushing to get the new version which would probably fail to run on my old machines is that I’ve played DOTT at least three times from beginning to end in the last couple of years – once even on my Android tablet. So I’m not particularly keen on playing it again at the moment – but rest assured, I will go and play it at some time in the very near future, maybe when an Android version is going to be released!
Let’s hope that this is going to open the doors to more upgrades of classic LucasArts adventures – Tim Schafer has already mentioned that Full Throttle is in the works, but what I’d particularly love to see are remastered versions of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis and maybe The Dig and Sam & Max Hit the Road. Given the legal problems that DoubleFine must have had getting the rights to DOTT, all this is highly unlikely… but with the enthusiastic reaction to both the new Grim Fandango and Day of the Tentacle, I think nothing is impossible right now. Disney should just release all the games into the capable hands of DoubleFine and then
A long time ago back in 1995, I accidentially discovered an interesting game package in the computer section of a local department store – it had the simple title DISCWORLD, an intriguing cover illustration and billed itself as an adventure game from the world of a certain Terry Pratchett, of whom I had not heard before. What actually got me to buy the game, though, was the voice cast – Eric Idle of Monty Python fame lending his voice to the main character made this game absolutely irresistible for me and practically an obligatory purchase. Of course, it was through this game I discovered Terry Pratchett in the first place and this beginning could not have been better. While Discworld, the computer adventure, had some minor problems and was not easy to solve, it embodied the quirky style of the author perfectly. Twenty years after its first release, it can rightfully be seen as one of the classic adventure games of the era and at the same time a successful literary adaption. Let’s have another look at it for the 20th anniversary – it’s almost unbelievable that it has already been that long!
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That’s right – Ron Gilbert, Gary Winnick and David Fox of Maniac Mansion, Zak McKracken and Monkey Island fame are making a new game called Thimbleweed Park – but it’s not just any game. Reminded of their good time they had at Lucasfilm Games, later LucasArts, in the late 1980s when they revolutionized and practically invented the genre of the Point & Click Adventure, Gilbert and Winnick decided to make a “new old game” in the classic style, like a lost Lucasfilm adventure that was never released. Because time is money and creating something like this just as a hobby would be problematic at best, Gilbert and Winnick decided to fund their project with Kickstarter and were greeted with a phenomenal response – a budget of over half a million dollars enabled them to start working on the game in earnest. The kickstarter video trailer was already amazing and it’s only going to get better…
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You have to hand it to Tim Schafer, former LucasArts games developer now gone independent with Double Fine Productions – he really loves his old classics. At the beginning of December, there was the amazing announcement that his company would not only remaster Grim Fandango, but also Day of the Tentacle, the 1993 sequel of Lucasfilm Games’ adventure debut Maniac Mansion. Those news made me all nostalgic because I really love those games and while I completely agree that Day of the Tentacle will really benefit from a remaster especially in the graphics department, I’m not completely convinced about Grim Fandango.
I hate to be the voice of criticism here, but when I pulled out Grim Fandango a couple of days ago for the first time in maybe ten years or more, it still looked impressive to me, especially considering the game is over fifteen years old today and used only a resolution of 640×480 pixels – it might not be enough for a huge television set, but the OpenGL rendering of ResidualVM with an anti-aliasing filter on the 3D models makes the game appear very smooth. Upscaled on a 17″ 1280×1024 monitor (that’s about the same height as a 22″ 16:9 display) it still looks nothing short of amazing and only a little bit pixelated.
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This is not completely unsurprising, but nevertheless very sad news: Disney, who bought the whole Lucasfilm empire last year from its founder George Lucas, announced that it will close down LucasArts. The games division of Lucasfilm had been in trouble for a number of years and the original company, which almost single-handedly had invented the point-and-click adventure game in the late 1980s with Maniac Mansion, has long ceased to exist. Their last true adventure game, Escape from Monkey Island, was published thirteen years ago in 2000 and from then on the almost exklusively focused on Star Wars action games. Sequels to Full Throttle and Sam & Max were even cancelled as late as 2004.
There had been a glimmer of hope in 2009, when LucasArts had allowed Telltale Games, who had already been doing a series of Sam & Max adventures, to rejuvenate the Monkey Island franchise with Tales of Monkey Island, a story told in five game episodes. In parallel, LucasArts themselves released new versions of the first two Monkey Island games with new artwork and full voice acting. While it seemed that LucasArts at least cared a little for their legacy games, nothing more had been forthcoming since then apart from some rereleases of a couple of other adventures with Windows engines.
So this is not actually the end of an era, and judging from the press releases the name LucasArts is not actually going to disappear – Disney is just going to outsource the game development to other companies. But that means people have been laid off at LucasArts – and in the current economical climate, that’s the actual sad news. But LucasArts is not alone – none of the great adventure game developers of the 1980s and 1990 exist anymore today.
I’ve actually been working on a kind of tribute site for the LucasArts adventures for a long time now and the project has been somewhat made redundant by the emergence of Wikipedia – which is not necessarily a bad thing. But I might just give it another shot and rebuild the never-finished games section of this website not only for LucasArts, but for other all adventure games. Maybe!
Ganz so faul wie der Typ dort rechts war ich am Wochenende trotz der Pfingtsfeiertage doch nicht, aber ich habe es mal ganz langsam angehen lassen und im DVDLog eine überarbeitete Review der dritten Futurama-Staffel hochgeladen. Als nächstes Update kommt dann Staffel 4 dran, womit das Futurama-Renovierungsprojekt endlich abgeschlossen wäre – frühestens Anfang nächster Woche, aber vielleicht lasse ich mir auch noch etwas mehr Zeit damit. Es ist aber nicht so, als daß mir das Material ausgegangen wäre – ganz im Gegenteil habe ich noch soviel unrezensierte DVDs hier herumliegen, daß ich mich manchmal gar nicht entscheiden kann, womit ich als nächstes weitermachen soll :-).
Und dann bin ich gerade noch über die fast unglaublich klingende Ankündigung gestolpert, daß Guybrush Threepwood demnächst wieder in neuen Monkey Island-Abenteuern unterwegs sein soll. Zuerst habe ich das für einen blöden Scherz gehalten, aber auf der Hauptseite von Telltale Games ist tatsächlich eine Ankündigung samt Trailer für die Tales of Monkey Island zu sehen, die ab dem 7. Juli ähnlich wie bei Sam & Max und Wallace & Gromit als downloadbare Episoden veröffentlicht werden – außerdem wird es eine neue Highres-Version des ersten Spiels geben.
Offenbar hat sich Telltale Games mit LucasArts, die an den neuen Spielen mit beteiligt sind, über die Monkey Island-Rechte endlich einigen können – und da Telltale Games bekanntlich größtenteils aus ehemaligen LucasArts-Mitarbeitern besteht, kann man sicher sein, daß die neuen Abenteuern von Guybrush Threepwod ganz ausgezeichnet werden. Wird Zeit, daß ich endlich die steinalte Lucasarts-Adventure-Seite renoviere…!