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

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

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

The Poor Man’s Fighter – Sega Genesis – Eternal Champions – 1993

Eternal Champions (U) [!]_004

This wacky cast of lovable characters look like something out of a Saturday Morning Cartoon series.

Eternal Champions
Sega Genesis
Sega Interactive
© 1993
Genre: Fighting

Digging through my catalogue of games to write, I realized we have been heavily neglecting the noble genre of fighting games. I thought first, of course, about some of the long running series that are still alive and kicking to this day – in particular Street Fighter, Art of Fighting and Mortal Kombat.  While they have their place, they would need to have significantly more written about them than I have time for at the moment, much to my chagrin.  I considered writing about some of the later series of fighting games, 2D or 3D: Guilty GearBloody RoarSoul Calibur, Samurai Showdown and others I had torn through with friends over the years. Again, they all felt like a bit too much to write about in just one go.  I decided to dig deep into the B-team of fighting games that were released, to find a title that most other people I have known are unfamiliar with.  A heavy time travelers romp known as Eternal Champions.

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I’m Seeing Stars – MS-Dos – Star Control & Star Control 2 – 1990/1992

Star Control title

Star Control 2 box

Star Control & Star Control 2
© 1990/1992
Genre: Sci-fi Action Adventure & Shoot ’em Up

You may have noticed I’m doing an original and sequel once again. While I would normally spread these out across a couple of weeks, the second entry in this series is a direct continuation of the first in gameplay and story.  Star Control is almost like a prequel to the real game, Star Control 2 in storyline.  Really, the two games are an update and continuation on a much older franchise that can trace itself back to the origins of videogaming: a noble and successful take on Spacewar.

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An Erudite Adventure – Sony Playstation – Xenogears – 1998


(c) 1998
Genre: Sci-fi Fantasy RPG

The Playstation was a system known for its RPGs.  Many were good.  Some were bad.  A few were flat out flops, and still others were fantastic, really a cut above the rest.  They spanned all genres, though fantasy and sci-fi fantasy tended to rule the day.  When Xenogears was released, there was a new trend happening in Japan – there was this thirst, this desire for religious and intellectual themes, psychological references and some really heavy topics.  Two anime come to mind in particular that exemplified this, Ghost in the Shell and Neon Genesis Evangelion.  Xenogears is one of the few games I would honestly recommend someone brush up on their humanities before diving into it. Continue reading