Leadlight: Kickin’ it oldschool.

I should probably be reviewing one of the bible games next, since I had planned to space those out a little (so as not to unintentionally compare one to the other), but I’ve been semi-subconsciously avoiding them.  Not because I’m anti-bible (was raised Christian, and much of the second half is the basis for my own ethical system) but because I have a tendency to swear like a sailor. That might well piss off some otherwise reasonable people in the context of reviewing a bible game.  Unless the bible game itself was full of hurtful cuss-words, which would be kind of unique.

Anyway, I’ll hit one of the biblical games tomorrow and try to work on my swearing problem.  In the meantime, I’m going to kick it old-school style with one of the weirdo-interpreter games, Leadlight (a… wow, an Apple II game, by Wade Clarke).  It most definitely does NOT look like a bible game. At least not New Testament.

As most of you know already, weirdo-interpreter games can be kind of… bad… so I’m approaching this one with a bit of trepidation.  The artwork is purdy though, so I have some hope.  And I know that other people tend to skip the weirdo-interpreter games, so maybe if it is good I can get the word out or something.

Anyhoo, on with the show!

Good gravy, an Apple II emulator.  Last time I was using one of these ancient beasts, I was swearing at Zork Zero at the top of my lungs. Fuck that Towers of “Barboz” minigame in it’s ear.  I digress.

Hmm.  Trying the online version, and I come across an about page listing “Features”.  These “Features” include:

* Brings modern survival horror feel to a classic gaming form
Sweet, I like survival horror, especially when pre-rendering and bad camera angles aren’t going to get me eaten by zombies.

* Defeat enemies and uncover secrets to improve your score
Crap, I smell randomized combat.

* Experiment with weapons and clothing to improve your stats
The aforementioned smell is getting stronger…

* Avoid gruesome traps, or back up a move if you fall prey to them
With our state-of-the-art, patented UNDOES command!  There is nothing like it anywhere else!

* Horror in an Australian setting
Is this… is this good or bad?  Neutral?  I don’t know whether to be excited or not by horror in an Australian setting.  I mean, that continent IS inherently terrifying to me, what with the gazillion spiders that can kill you with a single bite.  Oh man, what if this game is totally MADE OF SPIDERS?  Like the parser and everything.  I don’t know if I want to play anymore.

This plug-in better not cause my system to be invaded by porn.

Well, the plugin crashes Firefox, but I detect no random Australian horror porn on my computer.  Good to know!  The browser works, but with no save function.  Which might be annoying in a random combat situation.

Sending you to an expensive boarding school was your mother’s way of ridding herself of you while still feeling okay about it.  Your stepfather has never been interested in you and you barely remember your real father.
Man, Belinda… you should go hang out with the kids from East Grove Hills, join that club they started.

A girl from your year, Charlotte Jeffs, sits across from you in wide-eyed repose.  She is pale and utterly still.  As minutes continue to pass, it dawns on your that she is dead.
Ehhh, Charlotte does this whole “being dead” thing all the time.  It’s a cry for help, really.

Ooo, dead girl’s ipod.  Yoink!  Rockin’ out on a pink ipod I stole from a dead girl, while her corpse sits there starin’ at me.  I am living the Gen-Y dream.

>attack debbie
Why would you attack DEBBIE?
Duh, so I don’t have to give her damn hockey stick back when she snaps out of her catatonic coma.  This thing is sweeet.  Besides, can’t rule out the possibility that there’s some kinda zombie plague going on here, and it’s best not to take chances.

It’s Belinda’s fault.
Okay, if this is actually all a dream of the main character’s, and she’s just running around killing people in a glassy-eyed fugue state… I take back my suggestion that she should go hang out with the East Grove Hills kids.

It’s really Narelle.  You really beat her to death, though you are desperate to believe anything else instead.
I’m going to pretend that I gave her candy corn.  That’s at least marginally better, right?  I’m not a bad person for giving a library monitor candy corn until she passes out in a pool of her own caved-in-head, right?

Alexis Karpa, a year nine student, is being dragged into the hedges by a rose vine.  A second vine at her mouth muffles her cries as she thrashes slowly, her eyes desperate.
That rose vine is trying to give her candy corn!  That’s MY job!

Although, to be fair… if this were an anime, that rosebush/schoolgirl moment would actually count as a heartwarming first date, probably.  Eeeurgh, need a mental shower now.

Alexis is dragged completely into the hedge.  Her cries cease.  All is still and silent.
Nooo!  Alexis, don’t take that thing’s candy corn!

Some kind of black mist killed me, used the game’s patented UNDOES function to live again, went a different way, gave the gardener some candy corn, then my art teacher tried to give ME candy corn… ugh, creepy doll.  Why must every horror game have a creepy doll?  Oh, and it turns to powder when you touch it, too.

You feel so desperately sick at having killed Miss Arden that you cannot look at her face.
Good thing I clubbed it off of her with this broken hockey stick, then!  Whew!  I mean… candy corn.

Wow… “Her social maladjustment has not improved during her time at school“?  Totally reasonable school counselor-babble to find in a student file.  “I expect that she will try to kill us all at some point“?  Not so much, and should probably have resulted in my character’s imprisonment or something before the events of this game.  Shit, this is Australia, right?  They’ve seen Heavenly Creatures, right??  Get this girl to a jail before she starts handing out candy corn, STAT!

Y’know… if I were writing this game, I would make it so the second time you go through the area, the creepy doll is unexpectedly now a creepy girl who tries to kill OH SHIT

Time to lop mystery doll girl’s head off with a pair of pinking shears give her candy corn!

And now I am killed.  So, do I continue, or… hmm.  Sure, maybe this time I can get to the shears earlier and prevent Alexis from going on a date with that rosebush.  And I do, although she thanks me by screaming and running off.  Kids these days, no gratitude.

Isabelle, if you think I’m gonna fall for that old “sit on the bench next to you and talk this out” shtick… actually, I just did fall for that.  Insta-death.  Done for now.

Part Two: The Rundown

This was actually about what I expected.  A relatively well-written horror game with a two-word parser, and random combat out the fuckin’ wazoo.  I liked it okay, in an old-school kind of way (grainy old green blinky text meshed well with the theme, and with the snazzy stained-glass background).  There were one or two genuinely creepy moments, and people with weaker horror-thresholds will probably be genuinely skeeved out in a couple of places, particularly if they turn off all the lights in the house first.

But eventually, Old Man Random Combat just got to be too much for me.  There’s the usual lack of strategic depth (ATTACK SO-AND-SO over and over), I couldn’t figure out which weapons were better or which enemies were necessarily stronger… just basically the same problems with standard random combat that’ve always been there.

The two-word parser wasn’t as restrictive as in the old-school games, which was nice.  As always when playing those, I end up missing the shortened commands (“i” for “inventory”, etc.) that we all take for granted. And a couple of times I was typing faster than the parser could keep up, even on the “high” setting, but that was okay, and might have been my connection.  The prose was passable; I didn’t see any particularly brilliant moments, but I didn’t see anything that had me gagging either.

And the presentation was definitely super-slick; kudos to the author for giving the old-school feeling while wrapping it up in a nice-looking Parchment-like app.  Sure wish I could play the old Zork games like that.  The implementation, for what it was trying to be, was also good (no missing items, nary a bug I could find in the bits I saw, both rare for a weirdo-interpreter game).  It’s obvious that a lot of love went into both the game and the extras, and regardless of who’s cup of tea the game is, that deserves a mention.

EDIT:  The hint book and Instructions pdf are also really well done.  Way better than you usually see, honestly.

Final verdict is, if you want some old school (and I mean old school) fun done well for that genre, with great overall production, and aren’t allergic to randomized combat, I’d say turn out the lights and give it a whirl for a half hour, if only to see what games were like “back then”.  Otherwise you can probably skip it.

Your mileage may vary given a save function; for all I know the game totally rocks your socks off towards the end, but I have no way of finding out without crashing my system, apparently.

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4 Responses to “Leadlight: Kickin’ it oldschool.”

  1. Andrew Schultz Says:

    Hey, if you’re interested in saving things, downloading all the files should work. web\leadlight\ActivePC (or ActiveMac depending on what you have) will have standalone Active IIgs. You can save states on the IIgs. Four of em. For Windows I can verify it’s preconfigured, so just run from the directory. GS is also hella faster.

    Sucks that Active IIgs would cause a browser crash. I know the beta testing team used the web for this. We tried other browsers too but had to cancel them–support didn’t quite work.

    Also, a download link for the individual game…

    http://www.ifarchive.org/indexes/if-archiveXgamesXcompetition2010XwebXleadlight.html

    …in case you, or others reading, have some of the 2 hour time limit you want to use up.

    • My plan is to go back through and try to get it working with the Save function for a Round Two review after I work through more games. In the meantime, I felt like I got enough of the game to make an informed decision about whether or not I liked it and would recommend it, although I’m certainly going to take another stab at it before Actual Judging.

      Not sure what was up with the browser crash, all I know is that the Active plug-in that the site required me to download for that version caused Firefox to flip nuts. I may well have been doing something wrong on my end. Thanks for the heads up to me and any readers, in any case!

      • Andrew Schultz Says:

        Glad I could help! Yeah, I’m playing a lot of games in, say, 2 1 hr stretches, too. It’s lessened my being unfair to a game if I’m in a bad mood and/or hit a roadblock.

        As my job involves software testing, I’d love to isolate what got missed&feel proud you found nothing else (so far.) I’ll avoid discussing the game proper as I don’t want to tap up potential judges, but one further fyi…

        I used Firefox 3.0.19 on Vista & 3.0.? on XP, but I know the early Firefox 3.5 builds had a few regressions with flash/activeX controls.

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