Sunday, July 5, 2015

Elvira II: Won!* (with Final Rating)

I don't like the sound of that last bit.

Elvira II: The Jaws of Cerberus
Horror Soft (developer); Accolade (publisher)
Released 1991 for DOS; 1992 for Amiga, Commodore 64, and Atari ST
Date Started: 20 June 2015
Date Ended:
04 July 2015
Total Hours: 21
Reload Count: 44 (mostly from trying alternate solutions to puzzles, not death)
Difficulty: Moderate-Hard (3.5/5)
Final Rating: 34
Ranking as of Game #349: 238/349 (68%)

If nothing else, Elvira II helped me clarify why I'm a CRPG addict and not an adventure game addict. Although I value puzzles in RPGs--the occasional riddle, mystery, inventory puzzle, or navigation puzzle--I don't like games that are all puzzles. I don't always want to have a puzzle on the board, waiting to be solved. Rather, I want my puzzles to be punctuations after moderately-long periods of dungeon crawling and tactical combat. This probably explains why I'm not a huge fan of Dungeon Master-style games, where unsolved puzzles tend to rack up pretty fast.

As I wrapped up last time, I was preparing to navigate out of 6 levels of catacombs so I could grab some items of makeup and then navigate back through 6 levels of catacombs and fool the evil sorcerer into thinking I was his apprentice. As I had done with the mad scientist's assistant, I studied the picture that looked like a wizard's apprentice and dressed up in the appropriate garb, hat, and facial hair.

This was fun the first time.
Fortunately, it occurred to me to take all the makeup items back with me, in case I'd made a mistake, because I did. I forgot the fake nose. If I hadn't brought everything, I would have had to trek up and back again, and that probably would have killed my interest in finishing the game. (Later, though, when it became clear that I missed some fish bones needed for a "buoyancy" spell, I did have to trek down four levels again.) As it was, they were pretty annoying. Frequent traps pop up in your path, so you can't get into a rhythm where you're constantly moving forward, because this happens:

Instead, you have to pause after every step to make sure there isn't a trap ahead, and if there is, you have to click on it and "avoid" it.

Anyway, fooling the wizard just made him go away, allowing me to proceed into the small chamber beyond, where I found Elvira!

Or, at least, I thought so. The visage of Elvira turned into an acid-spitting demon. Once I dealt with it, I recovered the Indian's war lance.

It turned out that each of the three major areas--the "stages"--culminated in an encounter with "Elvira," followed by the recovery of one of the Indian's magic items. The first two times you find Elvira, she turns out to be a fake and you have to battle the creature that's taken her visage. The third time, it's the real Elvira, and after that until the end of the game, she appears in your inventory(!).

The caverns of Stage 1 were as large as the catacombs, but only four levels. They were crawling with giant mosquitoes, ants, grubs, and other vermin, but I clearly was supposed to have visited this area first, because I was way overpowered for them. Most of them died in a single blow with combat set to "berserk" mode. Occasionally, they poisoned me, but red mushrooms in the area were capable of creating the "antidote" spell.

The encounters in the dungeon were punctuated by rooms full of crystals and mushrooms that I could use to make helpful combat and healing spells. I ended up using hardly any of them because I had already conquered the place where I would have needed them most--the catacombs in Stage 3.

At the apex of the level was a giant spider and spider web. The spider was unkillable, I think, but I was able to evade him by trapping him behind an elevator door. In his web, I found a version of Elvira that turned into a hideous wasp-woman and the Indian's magic tomahawk.

Okay, enough of that.

Clearing the area meant finding a key to the elevator, and I had to look up a spoiler for that one. It wasn't obvious to me that a couple of pixels on an image of a dead man wrapped in a spider's web held a necessary item, or that I would need to use the "Telekinesis" spell to obtain it rather than simply cutting it out of the web. There are quite a lot of puzzles in the game that are like this.

Do you see anything obvious to try to take?

During my explorations of Stage 1, I maxed in level (10) and experience (9999). Even though I took multiple passes through the catacombs, I still think it was a bit too easy to hit the cap well before the end of the game.

Fighting a giant worm. Note all the crystals and mushrooms in my inventory.

With Stages 1 and 3 clear, I had to return to the haunted house at Stage 2 and figure out what I hadn't finished there. It turned out I had to bring Frankenstein's monster to life by casting "Summon Storm" on the house's roof and letting it strike a copper rod I inserted in a barely-visible slot. Again, I was relying on a walkthrough at this point.

The storm brought the monster to life, but what ensued was the most annoying puzzle of the game. Basically, you have to do two things with the monster: remove his headband, scalp, and brain, and get him away from the door that he's blocking when you first find him. This means that you have to animate him long enough to get him to walk a few steps from the door, but then stop him (by pulling out his brain wires) before he has a chance to kill you. The timing is hard to get right, and if you don't realize there's a door behind him in the first place, it's easy to put yourself in a "walking dead" scenario by taking his brain before he's moved away from the door.

Disassembling the monster.

Behind the door was, in my case, the real Elvira, along with the Indian's magic bag.

I don't suppose I could just leave her here?

I took all of the magic items to the Indian and he, one by one, in a series of identical animations, infused them with magic power.

You'd think a man of such ability could find a better job than janitor.

I now had all the items I needed for the summoning and binding ritual to kill Cerberus, described at length in one of the library's books, but I needed a holy man to draw the pentagram, and that meant resurrecting the dead cleric. Fortunately, now that I was at Level 10, I could mix the "resurrect" spell. I'm sure the ingredients were among the library's many tomes, but I just tried various mixtures of likely-sounding items (brain, heart, spleen, holy book, holy water, etc.,) until I got it right.

Trying various items to mix the "Resurrect" spell. Note Elvira sitting there in my inventory (second from the left). Could I have used her to mix a spell?

With the cleric revived (no word on how a clearly-Catholic priest felt about being resurrected via arcane arts), he took my chalice full of blood (I honestly can't remember where I got it) and went off to the parking lot to draw a pentagram. At this point, relying on the instructions in the book and a little help from the walkthrough, I completed the ritual necessary to kill Cerberus: light a series of 10 candles around the pentagram, use the magic bag to summon the beast, cast "Bind Demon" at him, throw the Indian's spear at his head, and hack his heart with the tomahawk. It took me a few tries to get it right because he kept killing me while I was trying to find necessary items in my inventory.

You'd think he could just do #2, but he just says "I don't perform that mumbo jumbo sort of religion."

The endgame animations were pretty good, and it's worth watching the video below of the entire sequence. Note the constant music. I played the game with sounds turned off on my computer; how long would you have been able to last with music like this playing incessantly?

Like the first game, this one ends with Elvira beckoning you to your ribald reward.

I'm not sure I like the look of that dagger.

I hope that the folks at The Adventure Gamer get to this one eventually, because I'm curious what they'd say about it from an adventure game perspective. I thought that some of the puzzles were rather obscure and illogical, and that there was too much screwing around trying to make sure you had the right inventory items in each situation. Add to this a number of "walking dead" situations (avoided in my case by breaking my rules and looking at spoilers), and I'm not sure it performs well as an adventure game.

On the other side, the role-playing aspects were under-developed. You do get notably stronger with each level-up, but the dungeons are long and boring and the combats bereft of anything you might call "tactics," so for me the role-playing elements were somewhat unwelcome. They mostly just padded the time.

It might score higher in a GIMLET than the first one just because it has more elements, but I can't honestly say I enjoyed it more. Let's see.

  • 6 points for the game world. This is one category that's notably better than its predecessor. It makes good use of horror movie tropes and characters by having the sets literally come to life. Elvira felt more like a standard fantasy game in Elvira's clothes; this one felt closer to a horror RPG.
  • 3 points for character creation and development. Definitely better than the first. You get noticeably stronger as the game progresses and you gain experience and level up. I like that you get experience for a variety of actions and puzzle-solving, not just combat. But there are no meaningful character choices throughout the game; even the initial selection of "profession" is staggeringly unimportant.
  • 5 points for NPC interaction. Between Elvira, the Indian, Frankenstein, and the sorcerer, there are a handful of NPCs with dialogue options, some of them even involving a small amount of role-playing (e.g., whether to insult the Indian by asking for "fire water").

Elvira's interpolations were usually unwelcome.

  • 5 points for encounters and foes. A variety of monsters undone by a lack of true strengths and weaknesses, plus puzzles that tended on the too-tough side. Balancing this were some occasional puzzles different than anything I've seen in a CRPG or adventure game. I like the use of spells as puzzle-solving tools.
  • 4 points for magic and combat. The combat system is arguably worse than the first game, but either way it's just a click-fest. I did like aspects of the magic system, such as being able to create "Fireballs" from a combustible material. This would be a fun dynamic in an open-world game where items replenish. Here, because there were so many "walking dead" scenarios, I was reluctant to fully exploit the magic system. I could have gone the entire game without running out of "Herbal Healing," for instance, but there was only a single item available to cast "Telekinesis." Good thing I didn't waste it.

Killing a giant mosquito, like everything else, is just rapid clicking.

  • 3 points for equipment--a handful of weapons and armor. The game gives you no clues as to the damage or protective value of the items you wield and wear.
  • 0 points for no economy.
  • 2 points for the main quest, which offers only one outcome and no player choices.

Tossing a spear at Cerberus to win the game.

  • 3 points for graphics, sound, and interface. The graphics are lovely, but the relentless music is unbearable and makes it impossible to enjoy the other sound effects. And I can't excuse the all-mouse interface. If a game is going to feature long series of mazes, I want to be able to move through them with the arrow keys.

A well-rendered giant spider chomps me to pieces.

  • 3 points for gameplay. I like the non-linearity during the central acts, but I'd say it's just a little too hard and quite a bit too long.

That gives us a final rating of 34, a little higher than Elvira but not enough to cross into "recommended" territory. Elvira II is definitely a better RPG than Elvira, but being a "better RPG" doesn't count for much if you're still not a good RPG.

I've run out of ways to make fun of Dragon giving everything 5 out of 5 stars, but they did it again here. You'd think a magazine focused on role-playing would recognize that Elvira II had some definite weaknesses in this area, but instead they offered a review that could have doubled as an advertisement: "From the opening screens, you'll be on the edge of your seat trying to rescue the beloved Elvira. This is a 'must' purchase."

Scorpia offered a more sober look in the March 1992 Computer Gaming World. Her primary problems are the "walking dead" scenarios: she was unable to complete the game because she'd used a crucifix needed to ward off a vampire in a spell; even if she could have gotten past this, she also used the matches needed to light the candles on a "Fireball" spell (which I also did; thankfully, I had VK to warn me). She also mentions the Frankenstein one. The entire second half of her review, in fact, is taken up with complaints about this specific issue, and I can see why. I was also happy to see that she complained about the music. On the other hand, she goes on for a while about a lack of save slots, which baffles me a bit. The game allows 48 different save slots in an era where the default is usually one. I only used 6 slots, but I grant you I tend to be overly conservative about this.

I'll tell you this: I wish there were more horror-themed RPGs. To that end, I'm going to be happy to give the Horror Soft/Accolade team another chance with Waxworks, coming up in 1992. Judging by the screen shots, it uses the same engine as Elvira II, but perhaps it improves elements of the gameplay. Either way, the setting looks pretty cool.

That will, alas, be Horror Soft's last game. The company renamed itself Adventure Soft in 1992 and produced the Simon the Sorcerer series but never tried again with an RPG. Of the three primary developers on Elvira II--Alan Bridgman, Michael Woodroffe, and Simon Woodroffe--only Simon Woodroffe seems to be active today, with some 2010s credits on action games produced by Sega. Michael Woodroffe last shows up as managing director of Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth (2005), and Alan Bridgman last contributed to Simon the Sorcerer 3D (2002).

My acquaintance with the Mistress of the Dark was brief, but I can't say that breaks me up. It's time to finally get serious about Antares.


Further reading: My series of posts on Elvira: Mistress of The Dark from early 2014. YouTube user Lemm has a 3 hour and 20 minute LP that takes the game from beginning to end, and as a bonus you can check out Javier Juan Castro Sanchez's compilation of all of the game's death scenes.


  1. I told you it will be a better RPG. Heh. And you're also right about Waxworks. It's a lot better in both aspects as a CRPG and an Adventure game.

    For me, my preference of CRPG over adventure games (even though I still love this genre to death) is 'helplessness'.

    In a CRPG, unless it's plot related, you will always have a fighting chance against nay enemy. For adventure games, you are always portrayed as a sniveling 1-hit-kill weakling or the game will feature action mini-games (the rhythm of jumping from a thinking-man's game to a Mr. Trigger-Happy game can be staggering sometimes).

    1. How's Waxworks a better RPG? It barely has a character system.

    2. I was thinking the same thing, I'm surprised to see that Waxworks is actually going to be covered here.

    3. It's better because of the combat. It's a lot fleshed out as compared to Elvira 2. In the context of the game, you will be playing as the heir of the museum. Naturally, they can't have too much of a variance in character selection.

    4. Well it might be a better game, but still barely an RPG. More of an action-adventure really.

  2. That will, alas, be Horror Soft's last game

    Adventure game fans can always examine Horrorsoft's earlier Personal Nightmare, which plays a bit like a prototype of the series. I don't think it has much in terms of RPG credentials, so that will be, alas, their last game here on this blog 8)

    Of the three primary developers on Elvira II--Alan Bridgman, Michael Woodroffe, and Simon Woodroffe--on[ly] Simon Woodroffe seems to be active today

    This is just generational. I believe Michael was Simon's dad (hence "the sorcerer" was a bit of a family in-joke, a pity the character is such an unpleasant one!), who got in the industry early with eg. some wretched Fighting Fantasy adaptations you missed (text adventure hybrids with even less RPG credentials than the other gamebook CRPGs) and is now enjoying a well-earned retirement. (Last I heard Simon was running Rare, which means he's in some sense spearheading Xbox 360 games as a division of Microsoft!)

    1. I assumed they were brothers. Your intel makes more sense.

    2. I just looked the other day about info on the graphic artists of the series, finding none: do you know if they are active, even n traditional media, today?

    3. Just search for them in Linkedin.

      I found the creator of The Magic Candle there too.

  3. Speaking for "The Adventure Gamer", I can tell you that Elvira II is locked and loaded as Game 68, probably to be played sometime this fall. There was some thought to rushing that so it could be played with you, but ultimately that fell through for want of anyone actually *wanting* to play the game... So, perhaps that requires some explanation.

    If you are not aware, "The Adventure Gamer" was a blog previously run by Trickster where he would play every adventure game (err.... sort of) in sequence, in a style akin to the Addict here. However after a few good years and 45 games, he called it quits.

    Since then, "The Adventure Gamer" has continued in a different format (and if you haven't checked it out, I hope you will come back). It's now community-run where members volunteer to play games and write about them in a Addict/Trickster-esque way.

    I like to think actually that the new format is really coming into its own. We've completed 10 games from 1990/1991 since switching, but have also opened it up to cover adventure games from pre-1984, and even some small number of text adventures. (We've done 8 of those since the switch.) Just last month, we had our first community interview (of the "Two Guys from Andromeda" for Space Quest IV, and I have another lined up that we should be announcing soon.

    Disclaimer: I'm not actually an admin there, just an enthusiastic community participant. But I've also blogged eight of the games since the relaunch, so you might say "overly" enthusiastic community participant...

    1. "We've completed 10 games from 1990/1991 since switching, but have also opened it up to cover adventure games from pre-1984, and even some small number of text adventures."

      Sort of like how Chet started accepting games from the other computing platforms, actually.

    2. Thanks Joe for the advertisement! Although I wouldn't put so much value in the difference between admins and community participants in TAG - we admin are there just to make the work of our reviewers possible.

      Yeah, Elvira 2 is definitely coming up (we've done the first one also: ), and as Joe implied, it's a bit difficult to make drastic changes in the schedule, when you have ten moving parts to figure out, so we couldn't really start at the same time as Addict did.

      "Sort of like how Chet started accepting games from the other computing platforms, actually."

      Sort of, yes, but we are not doing it as systematically as Chet is - it's more based on the reviewer's choice and opinion what he thinks is a classic adventure game worth playing.

    3. Woo, text adventures. It's been a while since I've checked, obviously.

      I am still technically plugging away at All the Adventures (see the link on my name) multiple jobs + kids makes the going kind of slow. Probably the most interesting thing is the 1974 text adventure system that I helped unearth, which I do plan to write more about soon.

    4. Well, at this point I think just one, the original "Adventure".

      Graphical text adventures are a bit of a focus for me right now. I'm slowly working through the Sierra Hi-Res games, and I have a summer project to finish Questprobe. Spider-Man should be posted... tomorrow, I think! Great series.

      I'm currently digging at the history of "Cranston Manor" to start playing that. It seems it was based on a pre-existing text adventure and converted by Sierra without so much as a mention of the original. But I have the original and may be playing it very soon. (Although Questprobe #3 may be taking priority.)

    5. We've done "Softporn" also, so that makes it two. I seem to be the one focusing on all the pure text adventures, but I am sure that will change in the distant future.

    6. There will be graphic and FMV adult adventure games too. I'll see to that.

    7. I'm still on the mailing list, and promise I'll catch up with it and retrosmack eventually.

  4. Interesting. The game gave you the freedom to fail but you complained about it. I'd probably do the same though....
    Modern CRPGs would probably overcome the problems of "walking dead" scenarios by dividing the plot into different chapters. And after each chapter, former quest-relevant items disappear. The ingredients for the telekinesis spell should probably be categorized as quest-relevant items.
    You also had nonlinear freedom to go to the stages in the sequence you chose, but it turned out that in the wrong order, one stage was too hard and the other too easy. That could also have been solved by making you force to go through them in the right order by introducing chapters, or at least by giving very strong hints as to the correct order. I remember, I had a similar experience with KotoR, where I went to Kashyyyyyyyyk a little late, I guess. And it turned out to be much easier than the planet I visited before.

    1. KotoR demonstrates one of the difficulties of balancing an open world game without level-scaling. The first of the 4 planets you choose will always be hard, the second quite easy and the third and fourth total cakewalks.

    2. "The game gave you the freedom to fail but you complained about it." I'm not sure what your point is. "Freedom to fail," if it's a virtue at all, is only a virtue to the extent that the game doesn't TRICK you into failing. Allowing you to use up key plot items on spells, or allowing you to accidentally cast one-only spells at the wrong times, is less "freedom" than "trickery."

      I wouldn't say I chose the "wrong" order so much as I didn't necessarily choose the optimal order. Stage 1 was too hard when I first visited, very easy when I last visited. It didn't make a huge difference to my liking of the game either way, since combat is so banal no matter what the difficulty. In this case, I'm glad the game gave the freedom to choose the exploration order rather than make itself overly-linear.

    3. @ CRPG addict:

      "Freedom to faiL" was not some kind fo veiled criticism at you but more a philosophical thought. I mean, not having each ingredient already declared essential or non-essential, or described as being rare or abundant, is certainly more realistic. And it would add strategic versatility -if- you had several ways to solve a puzzle (through skilled fighting, through magic, through persuasion/sneaking/puzzle solving or whatever). So you have to make choices when it comes to creating reagents, at a price of potentially getting into a walking-dead scenario. Objectively, it's an increase in freedom (until the point of no return), but it's not good game design.
      TLDR: Sometimes people enjoy being railroaded.

    4. What @Alexander Sebastian Schulz (A.S.S.) said is true though. I mean, if you (in real life) were trapped in that stupid studio under the same conditions, you would also run the chance of using up an ingredient that was terribly scarce/absolutely unique at the wrong time.

      So, once again, realism doesn't really translate to good gameplay.

      Also, you spelt KashyshyYyyyYyyyyyKkKk wrong. I don't know how to spell it either but I know a wrong spelling when I see one. I heard it was spelt as "Kash-Triple Y-K" but, yeah, like Wookies could even pronounce that name.

    5. Indeed, thanks Kenny. Also, Star Wars names are the worst. General Moff???

    6. No, I think it would be more "realistic" if I could find plentiful ingredients. "Telekinesis" requires something magnetic. The only thing the game offers is a radio. I guarantee you I could find more magnets in an office building in real life. I bet I could find more fire extinguishers, too. In fact, since the game doesn't stop you from going all the way back to the beginning at any point, in real life I could get into my car and drive to the nearest Home Depot for pretty much anything on the spell ingredients list. (Brains are admittedly problematic.)

    7. Just offer the friendly clerk a new role in the latest Elvira flick, and viola, ready and waiting brain.

  5. There will be some decent horror-themed games on your list, albeit much later. 1992 will have Bloodnet, notable at least for a unique setting, even if its gameplay is flawed. 1993 wil have Legacy: Realms of Terror and Quest for Glory 4, which also takes a horror-ish tone this time.
    Funnily enough, if you think of it, the original Diablo has a setting that is more horror than high fantasy. But with the way you obliterate crowds of demons, it's not very scary.

    1. There's also Ravenloft 1 & 2, with "gothic" and "egyptian" setting respectively :)

    2. Since we're on the topic of horror and that Chet will not be playing these Indie RPG PC games, it will be a waste not to share them. Can't comment on the overall quality because; RPG Maker, but there's definitely some gems in them.

      Check them out at your own risk. Don't let the cutesy sprites mislead you. Some are so scary that you'd have to sleep with your lights on. Some are so badly made that they're even scarier than the former.

    3. Did any of them get released wide enough to be on the play list?

    4. No, they're made on RPGMaker for a small community, so Chet will never touch it.

    5. Don't tell me what I'll "never" do. I'll play one right now.

    6. Chet will *never* play Shin Megami Tensei.


  6. The victory screen puts me in a mind of the amiga romfont Topaz. I wonder if that's what it is, or if it was just a style of the era.

  7. Well done! I agree on pretty much everything you wrote about the complexity and nonsense of most of the puzzles, and on the game itself, except your assessment of graphics and music, that I find beatiful. I've only ever played it on Amiga, so I don't know if the music is much different on Pc, though.

    That said, the two Elvira adventures fascinate me, and I count them as some of the games I love most from my teenage years. It's just they are very very much flawed games, in regards of gameplay.

    1. Well, it's just the music that you disagree with me about, then. I did praise the graphics.

    2. The music does appear to be marginally better on the Amiga.

      However, with the large helping of st-01 and st-02 instruments, and uneven quality, marginal is as far as I'm willing to go.

    3. The music could have been composed by Beethoven, and I still wouldn't want it loping continually while I play.

      This is an area in which I will always be at odds with the majority of RPG players. I'll only ever like music in RPGs when it punctuates specific moments, like it does in films, rather than a constant background soundtrack.

  8. Decent horror RPGs are hard to come by, as powerleveling until you can make Cthulhu cry by kicking him in the jimmies does a number on the atmosphere. It's rare to see decent horror outside of the adventure genre, Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners proved that with its mid-game genre change.

    1. Not just RPG. Action shooter genres do that too if you can shoot your problems away.

    2. Horror RPGs? I keep thinking of Sweet Home. It's legit scary even today, and it's a pretty decent game as a pure RPG.

    3. I have it in my Steam Library. Yet to touch it. Is it really a pure RPG? As in; there's XP Levels, inventory, NPCs, stores, weapons, consumables & sh!t?

      IMHO, the best horror experience I ever had on a CRPG was Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines in the Ocean House. It was so scary that there were mods made for squeamish players to skip that part entirely. Another area was the Tzimisce House Of Horrors.

      It literally sent chills down my spine when I was playing alone and was so engrossed that I forgot to turn off the lights.

    4. What about System Shock 2? I though it was genuinely scary, even being both RPG and a shooter.

    5. PS:T is horror-ish.

      A lot of dark/dystopian fantasy/sci-fi stretches into the horror genre - Be it the witcher, FO:3 or the various WH40K games.

    6. Ooo yeah, VtM: bloodlines definately had great horror moments. It is another game that is let down somewhat by bugs but if you can get passed those it is worth a play. Hmm, now I want to re-install it...

    7. Only bad thing about VtM was that late game turns in to a mindless slugfest with no rime or reason and completely ignores lore or that not all players have maxed out "combat monkey" characters especially in late game when early parts can be made with both types of the spectrum.

      Oo I was not happy that to complete the game my character would had needed dex, stamina and str (instead of "social stats" and int, per, wis) all maxed out with ranged weapon skills to match without any prior indication.

    8. @Petri R. - If you still have the game, then fret no more. Download this sh!t and rejoice.

    9. And this one as well. Warning; this edition overwrites many things in the original edition but it will support your talk-your-head-off socialite vampire.

    10. It's rare to see decent horror outside of the adventure genre, Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners proved that with its mid-game genre change.

      Reiterating that this title was the last huzzah from the Woodroffe clan also responsible for these Elvira games! Are any traces of their earlier work and lessons learned in evidence in Dark Corners of the Earth?

      & apropos of nothing, Veil of Darkness is also coming up, seemingly unmentioned in the shout-outs of upcoming horror-themed RPGs.

  9. The only good horror CRPG I can recall is The Legacy: Realm of Terror from early 1993.

  10. Quest for Glory IV is a pretty nice horror-themed game, though without the explicit "horror" part.

  11. After watching that end sequence video, I'm shocked that anyone would click 'yes' to play again. Also, it's disappointing that the looping music didn't change, even after winning.

    1. I'm shocked that anyone would click "yes" to play again immediately, that's for sure. I could see liking the game and playing it again in a couple years, but who finally wins this game and says, "YES! LET'S DO IT AGAIN RIGHT AWAY!"

    2. Maybe no one told the developer that aping arcade game design was for the 1980s at the latest.

  12. From reading your rating (and your posting on Elvira 1), I get the sense that you find Elvira 1 to be a mediocre RPG that may be a good adventure game, while Elvira 2 is a slightly-less-mediocre RPG (4 points less mediocre) and a mediocre adventure game, and probably not worth playing for either.

    1. Yeah, that pretty well sums it up. But I'm not good at assessing adventure games. The types of adventure games that I like (short, not too hard) might be the opposite of what real adventure gamers like. That's why I said I was curious what the Adventure Gamer folks would say.

    2. Ultimately it comes down to what you like. I believe there are objective standards of quality (for instance, if Ultima VI was otherwise identical had a completely random one-in-two chance of crashing and deleting your saved game every time a battle started, it'd be an objectively worse game for it. Though exactly how much worse is debatable.) The length of a game isn't like that; if an RPG could pack an otherwise amazing experience into an hour, a strong case could be made that the game is better for doing so much in so little time (seems like you found the Quest for Glory games to be a less extreme example of this, as very good RPGs and astoundingly good adventure games;) why should it be any different for adventure games?

    3. I get what you're saying はかせの外人, and while I believe that intense, single-hour experiences can be a high point in gaming, I can't see it really working that well in the RPG mould. Where's the sense of character progression going to come in?

      There's some minimum length for various experiences to work, I think. For some game styles, that might be as short as five or ten minutes. I found the light-the-candles minigame which was craeted in the aftermath of the Santiago de Compostela rail disaster to be somewhat moving at a length of 30 seconds or so. But for an RPG in its traditional form, I think you're going to need at least two or three hours.

    4. Err, self-correction. It was the Madrid train bombings.

    5. Parameters is minimalist RPG in Flash that I believe meet's Chet's RPG criteria that's either brilliant or stupid depending on your perspective. A typical first completion time is roughly 30 minutes, and speedruns can be done in around a minute.

      (Make sure to press the English button, unless you want to play in Japanese.)

    6. Given that this game entirely lacks a character, it certain lacks in character progression. I would definitely not consider it an RPG.

      Progression works not because numbers go up, but because of the relationship of the player with the experience.

    7. The character is about as much of a silent, blank slate as you an get, but I think someone has to have all those numbers. My interpretation is that it's an extreme form of the silent protagonist.

  13. Awesome! Another video! I love this site's videos. I wish there were more of them.

    However, the horrid music in that video is what every video with music sounds like to me. I couldn't even watch the two and a half minutes without clicking on mute. Music isn't bad at first, but it just repeats, and repeats, and repeats. It never stops and it drives me crazy. I have to turn it off. And those tinny soundblaster instruments just make everything worse. At least if people recorded their LPs with MIDI music, it would ease the pain. I'm pretty sure MIDI (MT-32/Roland) is enabled by default on modern DOSbox installations and will work simply by configuring your games to use it.

    Five points for NPCs seems quite high for so few characters. At least Sword of Aragon (GIMLET 35) beat out Elvira II in the not-really-an-RPG category.

    1. I might try to make an effort to do more short videos like this, without narration. I can't seem to get it together for narrated videos. I'm either on the road and lacking my microphone, or in a noisy place with other people, or at home in my echo-chamber of an office, or otherwise not well set-up to put one together.

      You're probably right on the NPC score. I'm not sure why I went that high except that it's one of the few games of the era to offer any dialogue options, bad as they are.

  14. Although I'm sure you know what's coming, I can't wait to see what you have to say about Dragon Magazine once we get to 1992.

    1. I actually have no idea what you're talking about.

  15. I have been wanting to add my two cents about the selection of games in your blog for some time now. You have a brilliant three-point rule for establishing RPG credentials. The main problem is that it only tells you which games are certainly not cRPGs. In other words it is exclusive.

    Everything I could read about Elvira games back in the day suggested it was an RPG series. As I never quite got to playing it myself I needed your blog entries to realize this is patently not true. It is ok if you don't mind anventure games from time to time but considering the number of games ahead mayby a slight alteration to selection rules is in order?

    I myself have a simple one. If it plays like a RPG it is an RPG. Period. The problem with my approach is that:
    1. You have to invest some time into the title to get the feel of it.
    2. Some borderline titles can exhibit RPGness for like 90% of play time and go totally arcadish/adventurist/whatever for a small segment of the game. The mechanics are all the same, and nothing really changes but the "feel" is somehow different. Or a counter example Warcraft 3 is an RTS proud of it's name but singular missions in the game play like an RPG (due to shortness a simple but nontheless a real one).

    I am looking forward to how you disentangle such instances in the future.

    1. He already has a 6-hour rule in place to decide. You're worrying too much.

    2. What Kenny is overlooking is that once I've given a first post and an official number to a game, I'm VERY reluctant not to finish it. I certainly wouldn't reject it as an RPG AFTER I've started blogging about it.

      But I feel like my criteria generally works. Elvira II is a hybrid, but there's no question that one of its categories is an RPG. That it doesn't do the RPG half as well as, say, Quest for Glory doesn't mean that I shouldn't have invested the time in it.

  16. I think you got the adventure standards pretty well, and Elvira 2 puzzles are way off. Way way off. Not describing any for spoiler reasons, but you know, adventure games need some kind of central thread, some kind of progressive internal logic, and not the RPG mechanics being unease with the object using ones.

  17. At the beginning, the rating is 29. The sum of all the categories gives 34 and the final score is 33. Am I overlooking something?

    1. Amazing that no one alerted me to that in almost 5 years. Thank you. The real answer was 34.

    2. No problem xD (yeah, I was the Anonymous this time e.e I don't trust the PC at workplace to login in things, but forgot to use the Name/URL option)


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