Ahead of Its Time with an Excess of Pieces – PC – Phantasmagoria 2: A Puzzle of Flesh – 1996

TitlePhantasmagoria 2: A Puzzle of Flesh
PC
Sierra On-Line
Genre: Point-and-Click Horror/Sci-Fi
1996

Anyone who has talked with me about video games for an extended amount of times has stumbled on my love of FMV games. It’s probably due to the mixture of cinema and the interactivity of the medium, but something has always intrigued me about the jump to using live actors and CGI to bring games to the ‘next level’.

About three years ago, I put together a piece on a full-motion video game called Phantasmagoria, a game that was developed and published by prominent adventure game designer and Sierra On-Line luminary Roberta Williams. After the immense success of creating a video game that was aimed squarely at a more mature audience, it was only logical that a sequel would be developed; that’s the way that media works and Sierra did not disappoint in delivering another game to the short-lived franchise.

Phantasmagoria 2: A Puzzle of Flesh appeared on shelves a year after the original. Despite not being helmed by Williams this time around- the reins had been passed to a colleague of hers, Lorelei Shannon who wrote and directed- the sequel’s horrific box art and correlation to its controversial predecessor gave it the perfect setup to once again break records. The issue with following up groundbreaking work, however, is finding new ground to strike in a novel way. On the surface, this game seems ready to deliver the goods.

Once it’s open and the gears start turning, though, does the puzzle fit together or are there are few pieces missing that keep the final product from being as iconic as the first? Continue reading

Do We Reap What We Sow? – PC – Harvester – 1996


TitleHarvester
PC
DigiFX Interactive / Merit Studios
Genre: Horror Adventure
1996

There are plenty of gaming discussions and topics that grab my attention and engage me, but few really stoke my fires like video game controversy and censorship.  I’ve definitely hinted as to how much I love exploring the how and why of a lot of these actions (see my article on Night Trap for a sample taste of that) come to be.  Even better, I love hearing the voices of the creators on these matters.

Once again, I dip my toe into a game that fought censorship and bred controversy in its day with Harvester.  When Harvester released back in 1996, it shocked plenty of people with its claims of being ‘the most violent adventure game of all time’.  Given its place in electronic history, I could maybe see where its claim could be valid. There was a lot of competition to push boundaries while balancing interesting gameplay not only to ‘stick it to the man’ but to also promote commentary on what was acceptable in video games and film at the time.  According to Wikipedia, Gilbert P. Austin who wrote and directed the game said that he wanted to use Harvester to explore whether violence in the media created violence in real life.  Sounds oddly familiar, yeah?

This brings a few questions to the table then: did Harvester achieve what Austin was looking for?  Were the shock and awe worth it? Above all else- is Harvester even a good game?

Well, I’m glad you asked! Continue reading