Tag Archive: Gaming

Well, folks, I’ve pretty much come to the end of my personal selection of point-and-click-adventures.  As such, I figured I’d tell you about a game I played last weekend called Power Grid by Rio Grande Games.


Power Grid is a strategy game that focuses on resource management and zone control.  It’s basically like if you merged Risk and Monopoly and removed all the dice rolls.  The game proceeds in 5 phases.

  1. First phase the turn order is determined based on the current player setups (Person with the most cities controlled goes first.  Ties are resolved by who has the most expensive power plant and then who has the most money).
  2. Second phase is power-plant auctioning.  Basically the players take turns picking a power plant out of a 4 plant line-up and putting it up for everyone to bid on with their funds (called electro in the game).  The winner of the auction pays the price of their bid and takes the plant into their lineup.  Auctions continue until each player has either purchased a plant, or passed on their turn to auction a plant.
  3. Third phase is the resource phase.  Starting with the last person’s turn, each player has the opportunity to buy one of four resources (Coal, Oil, Trash, and Radioactive Material).  As more of the resources are purchased, the price for each unit of resource increases to simulate scarcity.  Resources are used to power your plants which in turn can provide power to a number of cities as indicated on the plant card (For instance, you might have a plant that produces 2 units of power on 2 units of oil).
  4. Fourth phase is where players have an opportunity to purchase a contract with a city to power it.  The price of buying this contract is based on how far it is from your starting city, and how many other players already have a share of the city (The more existing contracts in a city, the more expensive it is to buy an additional one).
  5. The final stage is bureaucracy, where each player can choose to consume resources in order to power cities and collect money based on the number of cities powered.

At this point you go back to the first phase.  The game is further divided into three steps, with each step changing how many shares can be bought in a city, how the auctions are handled, and how many resources are replenished to the market each turn.

For a more in-depth look at the game, check out this Dice Tower review:

I really enjoy games like this.  It’s mostly strategy with a little bit of luck involved.  It’s a fairly long game to play, with four people it took just under 2 1/2 hours to play (3 1/2 if you count wrangling the children and eating some donuts).

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

Sorry for the weird updates this week.  The holiday threw off my whole week.

Another addition to my continuing list of 80s and 90’s era point and click adventure games is Broken Sword by Revolution Software.


Broken sword is a more serious and deep look at genre, incorporating a much more mysterious and complex plot than most of the other PACA games of the time.  That said, there is still some humor to be had and the game’s aim still includes entertainment rather than an entirely heavy-handed focus on mysterious plot.  Aside from the plot, the game is beautifully drawn with impeccable art direction, the voice acting is solid, and the musical score is well written.  The Broken Sword series was successful for good reason: the games are very good.

Mechanically, there isn’t a lot new to be had.  It’s the same basic toolset you’ll see in most PACA games.  You move around by clicking and you collect items and clues to solve puzzles to progress through the game.  Even though the equation is tried and true, Broken Sword stands out as one of the better entries to the genre.

Recently, the first two Broken Sword games were re-released with updates as an Andoird App (also available on Google Play).  Both are $4 and well worth the investment.  Beyond those two, There are also several sequels of the game beyond that, which include The Sleeping Dragon, which uses a 3D engine and is quite a deviation from the first two games, The Angel of Death which returns to a more classical point and click interface but keeps the 3D rendering, and the planned The Serpents Curse which was a Kickstarter funded project that is a return to the 2D style and is scheduled for release later this year. I highly recommend checking all of these games out if you’re new to the series and a fan of PACA games.  Even the worst of the games is still very good.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

As I continue on this point-and-click adventure kick, I thought it would be a good thing to step back and take a look at one of the early games that really helped define the genre.  To that end, today I’m going to talk about Maniac Mansion by LucasArts (LucasFilms).

Maniac Mansion screenshot

Maniac Mansion was the very first foray into game making by the LucasFils/LucasArts group, and a very successful foray it was too. Maniac Mansion ended up founding many of the mechanics of later PACA games. While it wasn’t the first PACA game, it certainly was one of the most influential.

In Maniac Mansion you control Dave Miller and two companions who you pick at the start of the game. Much like all PACA games, the gameplay features puzzle solving and exploration. In this case, you’re in the Mansion of Dr. Fred, a mad scientist who has captured Dave Miller’s cheerleader girlfriend, Sandy Pantz. The tone of the game is very humorous, drawing heavily from B-movie horror clichés, which fits very nicely in the general atmosphere of humor across all North American PACA games.

The real place where Maniac Mansion shines is in the interface. Most PACA games released around or before Maniac Mansion were actually hybrids of point and click as well as text based. The control of the character would be mostly mouse driven, but most of the interactions had to be done on a command line. This could be frustrating in situations where exact verbiage was necessary, and indeed such moments of specificity were the bane of the early PACA player. Maniac Mansion consolidated the entire system into 15 selectable commands which streamlined the entire process and eliminated the issues with text entry. Most of the other big PACA producers of the time quickly adopted this style; later streamlining it to just a few commands that were context sensitive (typically look, interact, talk, and use item).

Maniac Mansion is a great game that doesn’t require a whole lot of time to play. For somebody who doesn’t know what they’re doing, you can play Manic Mansion from start to end in just an hour or two. If you know what you’re doing, you can get through it in under ten minutes. Despite being a premier title, Maniac Mansion is extremely hard to get one’s hands on legitimately, mostly because the original release was for Commadore 64 and Apple II. The NES carts are still pretty easy to get, though you’ll want to steer away from the NES version since it was heavily censored to meet the Nintendo of America’s strict content standards of the time. Since LucasArts seems to have almost entirely forgotten about the game in their recent re-imaging of several of their classics, you’re pretty much going to have to download Maniac Mansion if you want to play it.

There’s also a very promising looking remake in progress by Edison Interactive; however, it’s progressing slowly.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

This week continues my foray into great point-and-click adventure games with The Dagger of Amon Ra by Sierra.


The Dagger of Amon Ra is actually the second in a two-game series starring Laura Bow, though this entry is far superior to the first one in most ways, probably because Sierra had made a lot of progress on their PACA engine between the two releases.  From a mechanics stand-point, The Dagger of Amon Ra is pretty true to the genre: humor, inventory management, puzzles, sudden deaths, and a lot of pointing and clicking.  However, The Dagger of Amon Ra offers a neat little twist.  The game itself is a murder mystery in a museum, throughout the course of the game you investigate several murders in order to find the murderer.  At the end of the game you’re asked a series of questions in order to determine if you’ve solved the case.  Your ending will change based on how much of the case you solve correctly and you’ll be given some extra hints on what you need to do in order to flesh your knowledge of the case on a subsequent playthrough.  It’s unfortunate that these games came so close to the end of Sierra’s production of PACA games, as the mystery aspect could have lead to a whole new sub-genre.

The Dagger of Amon Ra is a great addition to any PACA game collection.  It’s familiar enough that it’s a solid member of the genre, while providing the novel mystery aspect that isn’t seen much elsewhere.  It’s still fairly easy to get a copy of the game, with used copies of the CD-ROM version running around $5 (CD-Rom version is the one you want because it has the voice acting).  You can also snag it on most abandonware sites, and since Sierra has effectively abandoned the series, with no remakes having been made and none planned (hence: abadonware), you can decide how bad you would feel about downloading it (abandonware is a large legal gray-area in my book).  It is a DOS game, so DOSBox is a must.  It probably would also run on early versions of Windows that are based on DOS (3.11 & Win95/98) if you want to play with virtual machines, but DOSBox is far easier.  As of DOSBOX ver0.6 and beyond, Dagger of Amon Ra V1.0 is playable with some minor sound issues.  From what I’ve seen, attempts to install it directly onto XP/Win7 generally do not end well, so plan on having to use an emulator of some kind.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

Since I’m on this point-and-click-adventure kick, I figured it would be remiss of me not to touch on a few of the Sierra games, which pretty much defined the genre.  This week, I think I’ll talk about Space Quest.


Space Quest is a series of 6 games that chronicle the adventures of Roger Wilco, space janitor.  The Space Quest series as a whole features more than a little humor while still delivering solid gameplay.  That said, for the veteran PACA player, there won’t be many surprises here (aside from Space Quest 4, which gave you the ability to lick things, a unique control option across pretty much the entire PACA spectrum).  You venture around the universe and have adventures, collect items, solve puzzles, and save the day.  Pretty standard fare.  The game really comes alive with all the zany humor and ridiculous situations you find yourself in.  It’s hard to resist the urge to spoil these, but I’ll hold myself back for the sake of anyone new to the series.

It’s really hard to give a good, solid review of Space Quest because it does its best to defy one’s ability to describe it without cheapening the experience by spoiling all the madcap events.  Really, Space Quest needs to be played in order to truly understand why it’s such a great series of games.  Luckily, it’s highly available.   There have been two compilation releases (featuring updates to the first game to bring it into line with the latter VGA releases), both of which are still available for purchase.  The earlier remake can be found for about $9, while the newer one (with Windows XP compatibility) runs around $13.

There is also a free remake of the second game available online at Infamous Adventures.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

Monday’s Game #113: The Dig

Since last week I talked about the great and humorous point-and-click adventure (PACA), The Secret of Monkey Island, I figured that this week I’d hit on another LucasArts PACA: The Dig.

the dig lucasarts

The Dig is a more serious look at PACA games. While the vast majority of those made in the 80s and 90s featured a fair amount of humor, The Dig was more aimed at mystery, exploration, and storytelling. Interestingly, the Dig was inspired by Stephen Spielberg as a potential episode for his Amazing Stories series (something I didn’t learn about the game until about 15 minutes ago).

The premise of the game is that you’re Boston Low, the Commander of a mission to deflect an asteroid from a collision course with Earth in hopes of bringing it into orbit. After successfully completing this mission, you find that the asteroid is seemingly hollow, and decide to investigate. Your team is quickly trapped and then warped to an alien planet. From there, you have to try to get everyone back to Earth.

The Dig, while originally released in late 1995, was a game I didn’t actually play until about 2002, when I borrowed it from somebody I met in the dormitory I lived in. I found it an extremely solid addition to the PACA lineup of games. The art is very good, the soundtrack well thought-out and executed, the plot solid and interesting, and the characters fairly robust (compared to other games of the time, anyway).

Getting your hands on a copy of The Dig is pretty easy these days. LucasArts released an updated version of the game on Steam for $5, which features new content and a few bug fixes. Sadly there is no DRM Free version of the game, so if you want such, you’ll have to start looking for a used CD-rom of the original, which are fairly common and run about $5.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

This week’s game is that old DOS classic, The Secret of Monkey Island by LucasArts.


The Secret of Monkey Island is a point and click adventure game released in 1990. It follows the story of Guybrush Threepwood as he strives to become a pirate. Like most adventure games of the era, such as Space Quest, Kings Quest, and Myst, it predominantly features puzzle solving and exploration. You have to find items in order to solve various contextual puzzles to progress through the game.

Like many of the Sierra titles of the time (which the Monkey Island unabashedly “apes”) the game features a light-hearted plot with more than a little humor. Unlike a lot of the Sierra titles, it’s impossible to actually die in Secret of Monkey Island. This was a specific design choice by the developer in order to make the game more accessible, and less “cheap.”

Secret of Monkey Island, and indeed the four titles that follow it to comprise the entire series, is a great game even by today’s standards. It’s fun and humorous, the UI is simple yet functional, the music is catchy, and the art (especially in the VGA revamp) is sharp. I highly recommend the whole series, but The Secret of Monkey Island is definitely the place to start. You can snag a digital download of the updated game from various places for about $10, which I think is money well spent. If you’re really into playing the originals, I’ll confirm that the game works flawlessly on DosBox.  So far as getting your hands on a copy of the original DOS release, well, that’s up to you.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

This week’s game is another NES classic: Duck Tales by Capcom.


Duck Tales is one of a modest collection of Disney Games made for the NES and is based on the popular cartoon series of the same name. Amazingly, most of the games released with the Disney license by Capcom were actually rather good, and Duck Tales was probably the best released.  This flies in the face of the conventional logic that games based on Movies/TV shows automatically suck.
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This week’s game is Organ Trail, by The Men Who Wear Many Hats.


Organ Trail is a zombie re-boot of the old Oregon Trail some of you probably remember from the old Apple 2 days. It’s a very neat game in that it remains very faithful to the original Oregon Trail while still introducing new game-play elements. As such, it’s pretty fun. Continue reading

One of those simple yet fun games of my childhood was Crossfire by Milton Bradly.


Crossfire is an exercise in simplicity. You’ve got two players, each with a little ramp gun that fires small ball bearings. There are two pucks, which themselves are just little plastic cowls around larger ball bearings. The object of the game is to shoot the pucks and push them into the goal at your opponents side of the board. If you can push both pucks into the goal, you win.

The only issue is that the game hinges on several dozen little tiny ball bearings, which are extremely easy to lose, especially for kids who aren’t very vigilant at making sure they’re put into a baggy or something after every time you play it.

I’m reasonably sure our old crossfire set has about 4 of the bearings left. Luckily, if one wanted to resurrect the game, a bag of 100 11/32″ ball bearings only runs about $10.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?