Monday, September 14, 2020

BRIEF: Projekt Ikarus (1991)

 
This is a science fiction game. You can tell by the stars.
         
Projekt Ikarus
Germany
HSC (developer); Data Becker (publisher)
Released 1991 for Amiga 
              
Projekt Ikarus is a somewhat intriguing-looking early game from a developer who would go on to some renown, Hannes Seifert. He is best known in the 1990s for his music compositions for German titles like Whale's Voyage (1993), Burntime (1993), The Clue! (1994), and Rent-a-Hero (1998), but he had skills in writing and programming, too, and seems to have done the bulk of the work on Ikarus. (I assume "HSC" stands for something like "Hannes Seifert Corporation.") In 1993, he founded a company called neo Software, which was bought by Rockstar in 2003 and became Rockstar Vienna. As an executive for his new parent company, Seifert oversaw German conversions of games in the Grand Theft Auto and Max Payne series. He later ran Io Interactive, a Square Enix studio in Denmark, and he's now an executive for the German branch of Riot Games.
       
I haven't been able to find a manual for the game, but from a summary in Amiga Joker (which rated it miserably), I learn that Ikarus takes place in 2232. A remote Earth colony has been invaded by aliens and a party of six warriors is sent to restore order. As they arrive, their ship crashes just outside the base (justifying the title, I suppose), leaving them stranded in a colony that at first appears empty.
         
The character roster.

            
The game begins in a character menu, with the graphics suggesting some kind of military training installation. There are 11 pre-created characters with goofy names. After testing all the controls, I was able to figure out how to remove characters and create new characters, but the button that allows you to train a character to a particular profession asks for a berufscode (professional code), and nothing I enter seems to work. Professions given for various pre-created characters show that options include soldier, pilot, chemist, doctor, psi-magier, explosives expert, bounty hunter, technical specialist, illusionist, sniper, wandering priest, trapper, and something I don't understand called an araner.
   
Attributes, which seem to be rolled randomly for new characters, are strength, intelligence, speed, health, explosives skill, find traps skill, disarm traps skill, camouflage skill, and throwing skill (there's also one I don't understand labeled Meltale E.). A checkmark indicates whether the character has magical abilities. This isn't the first German game to blend science fiction and magic, and the screens and titles remind me a bit of Antares from the same year.
              
Arriving at the base.

        
I blasted off with the pre-created party. The game began in the colony station with a notice that we couldn't go outside because the crash of our ship had reduced the exterior to rubble. Exploration seems to be in the first-person using the arrow keys, with the right mouse button toggling between the regular view and an automap. I didn't figure out what all the buttons in this interface did because I kept getting attacked.
         
 I don't understand combat.

           
Combat leaves me a bit baffled. It brings up two grids labeled "from above" and "from left." The problem is that both maps seem to only show the party and not the enemy. There are various options for each character, including moving and fleeing. I suppose attacking would be one of them if I could get close to an enemy or figure out how. All I can do is move around the grid and get attacked by an enemy I can't see. Messages pass too fast for me to capture and translate them, which doesn't help. The magic system also seems to require information from the manual.
      
As I've said before, I'm willing to go through the trouble of translation, and I'm willing to try to figure out a game without a manual, but I don't quite have the stamina for both at the same time. If anyone can turn up a manual (I tried Googling keywords to no avail), I'll give it another shot, or if one of my German readers wants to try it and report on his findings, the world will be grateful. Otherwise, this will have to remain a BRIEF.
       
    
The box looks pretty metal, though.


50 comments:

  1. Searching for the ISBN number of the manual yielded a single result: if someone happens to live near Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Bonn, they apparently have a copy.

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    1. Seems like it's in their storage and probably needs to be ordered by a registered user to be taken out. I'll check with some friends who work at other universities in that area if they can order it to be send over from Bonn.

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    2. That might be going a bit too far for a game of this obscurity and quality. I generally want to play the games, but let's not kill ourselves trying to make it happen.

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    3. Respectfully, Addict, digging up and digitizing the manual won't only benefit you, but also all the other people who might want to play the game.

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    4. We should definitely get you access to this! I am employed at a German university, and though my university is in a different state, I could apparently easily order it to be sent from Bonn via "Fernleihe" for a very small fee. However, I'm not sure when I would find the time for scanning it in, so I'll wait whether someone else with similar access will do it, and will only serve as the backup plan for now. Will check back in a few days.

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    5. It's been a while since I graduated, but wouldn't it be also possible to order a scan delivered to you through the OPAC? It's about 90 pages, so that could still be a viable option...

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    6. Alright, since no-one else volunteered, I just placed the order. Let's see what happens. Maybe they are going to digitize it, and otherwise I will somehow make the time for that. 90 pages would not take that long, really.

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  2. Oh, I remember "Burntime" I played the Shareware Version of it quite often. It has I small crafting and settlement management system, being curious what you think about it.

    btw Was this game originally released by data becker? I remember it more as shuffle ware and cheap re-release distributer

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    1. There were a couple original games published by Data Becker. I remember a couple from back in the day, usually B-grade strategy games.

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    2. I always thought Data Becker only did basic office application software. Kind of strange seeing them selling a game.

      Burntime was fun but more a strategy game than a RPG if I remember correctly. The thing I remember most is actually the manual, that was something else. They basically printed a full science book on radiation poisoning and dangers of nuclear energy.

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    3. It's always fun when video game manuals include real-world information. I understand Maxis games and certain flight sims were famous for this, although I've never owned one physically.

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  3. I'm pretty sure Meltale E. is a typo, it's very likely Mentale E., standing for mental energy.

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    1. Yeah, that was my guess as well. No idea about that "Araner" though.

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    2. Araner might also be a typo and mean Arkaner maybe, as another magic class? Either that or it's something specific to the setting.

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    3. The game has Araner shirts, Araner shoes, certain Araner weapons. It sounds like Araner is a species.

      (Perry Rhodan has a species called Ara, who for some reason do not look like humanoid parrots. Maybe that's the reference.)

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    4. @Buck depends, if we ever find out that Araner are also the major healers of the setting, or major drug dealers, it definitely starts looking fishy, hah.

      (The Aras are infamous for being basically a mixed drug cartel/healthcare system that also became a government. They pride themselves on healing everyone, for a price. Or supplying you with your favorite drugs!)

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    5. It's nice to see some PR fans in here. Though I never found the time for myself beyond app. 200 issues I hold the series and many of its authors in high regard. Sadly there is no PR crpg that I know of, so this topic will stay away from the addict and this blog.

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    6. @fireball, I couldn't agree more.
      A role playing game set in the Perryverse would be the bee's knees!
      I've often wondered why (to my knowledge) no one has attempted a Rhodan CRPG... with the well-established, fleshed-out world spanning literally millenia of (fictional) history, and the brand being established so well not only in Germany, one should think developers would form a line from the Atlantic coast to the publisher's offices to get their hands on the license.

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    7. @acj, even though Chet is out of luck here, at least the Adventure Gamer has multiple Rhodan adventure games to look forward to.

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  4. Lol, I am pretty sure that some of the pre-created character names are pseudonyms of authors of the German PC Player magazine. I used to read this frequently back in the days ...

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    1. 'Doc Bobo' and 'Trantor' are definitely referencing the 'Starkiller' comics that were published within the Pages of PC Player BITD. And 'Anatolius' is probably Anatol Locker, one if its editors. ;)

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    2. PC Player was established later, in '93. So those are probably Power Play references. I'm also pretty sure that Anatol Locker never wrote for PC Player, although that magazine retained a lot of that ol' Power Play DNA.

      Love to get to be pedantic about old German PC magazines in a comment section. :D

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    3. Well, if we're going to be pedantic about it, then I'll have to point out that yes, A.L. was an editor for PC Player in '93/'94, though only as a freelancer and not a full staff member... but still. ;)

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    4. Doc Bobo Was Boris Schneiders nickname in Power Play magazine

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    5. I'm glad you all came along. I thought they were just silly names.

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    6. They're still pretty silly.

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    7. El despertando, I thought Trantor was perhaps an Asimov reference? Trantor was one of the key planets in his Foundation/Empire universe...

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    8. @Chris: The reference to Doc Bobo is a dead giveaway that Trantor is a reference to the Power Play magazine comic 'Starkiller'.

      You can find some pages of the Starkiller comic by searching for images of "powerplay starkiller".

      There's a German-language Wikipedia page about it:

      https://translate.google.de/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fde.wikipedia.org%2Fwiki%2FStarkiller_–_Die_Gei├čel_der_Galaxis

      Doc Bobo was the pseudonym of Boris Schneider, who also did the (excellent) German translations of several LucasArts adventures, including Monkey Island.

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    9. While we are at it...

      https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boris_Schneider-Johne

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    10. @Chris: Considering the presence of Doc Bobo I'm 100% certain it's a "Starkiller" reference. And the Trantor of said strip is also not an Asimov-reference, since the strips' creators admitted they lifted the name from an silly C64/CPC 2D shmup called "Trantor - the last stormtrooper" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trantor:_The_Last_Stormtrooper)

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  5. He did Max Payne for GBA? That game was surprisingly good.

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  6. Now I have to go to your previous post to remember what BRIEF means. I told you it was a bad acronym.

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    1. It's a BRIEF entry that BRIEFs you on the game. Do you really need to know what the letters stand for?

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  7. Oh my, the contemporary reviews make it sound horrible. And apparently the manual wouldn't help either. I think I'll have to pass on giving this a try...

    https://www.kultboy.com/testbericht-uebersicht/2899/

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    1. One of the reviews indicate that you have to flee from Battle until you get weapons.

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    2. Well, it worked in Half-Life. But fleeing is probably more interesting in an action game.

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    3. Yeah, fleeing in an action game usually isn't that hard unless the enemies are unfairly fast to begin with. Fleeing in a turn-based RPG, or even a realtime-with-pause one, usually means waiting and reloading until the dice roll in your favor.

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  8. I am intrigued by the idea of having a Priest character in a non-D&D fantasy environment. Is that just another class of magic user?

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  9. Found no manual, but a 30 min gameplay video that *might* help. It seems to be uncommented, though.
    https://www.bitchute.com/video/ApaGnWfsDAdU/

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  10. I zoomed in on the combat grids and there are actually some dark blue 'blocks' against yours, thats probably the enemies. Probably not helped by colour blindness but even I could barely discern them without zooming in a lot.

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    1. The grid being tiny doesn't help either. I didn't even see the blue blocks on mobile, and on desktop I had to lean forward squint.

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    2. The blue dots are the party members, the pink dot is the currently active member.

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    3. The red dot is the single enemy, a rat. The current party member's dot is blinking, and the pink dot seems to indicate both allies and enemies in that row.

      Unfortunately, rats seem to be immune to punching, all my attacks always dealt 000 damage. The rat of course had no such problems. We'll need to find weapons first, I guess.

      Another fun fact: dead characters immediately disappear from the party list. Does this mean they are lost forever?

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    4. It's kind of strange that on a system known for exceptional graphics capability at the time, they went with colored squares on graph paper for their combat system. Even bad drawings would be much more readable than this.

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    5. I can see the blue. I can even see the "pink," though I thought it was light blue. But I don't see a red dot representing the rat anywhere.

      Regardless, has anyone figured out what the "left view" is showing and why it would be necessary?

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    6. I think it's literally representing the character's positions, as you would see them from the left in an orthographic view. The dot is pink because the active character is in that slot, and the three other characters at that Y-position are overlapping it. The blue dot above that is meant to be the one party member ahead of all the others. The problem is it's rotated 90 degrees, as if you were lying on your side looking at the scene.

      It's a creative idea for representing the vertical axis with two 2D views. If there are flying enemies later in the game, I imagine the "left" view would show you their relative heights. Regardless though, it's a terrible implementation and I also don't see a red dot in the screenshot.

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    7. I was racking my brain way too hard trying to make sense of that "von links" view. Why in the world they would have it rotated 90° clockwise is beyond me, but with that in mind it actually makes some sense. The rat not appearing on the grid, not so much.

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    8. I can't see any red dot either.

      I remember a similar concept in an old CGA game called Flightmare which showed top-down and side views simultaneously, but it was much more graphical and real time action, so a lot easier to figure out:

      https://www.myabandonware.com/media/screenshots/f/flightmare-40/flightmare_2.png

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    9. There's no red dot because from both angles, there's a party member in the same cell as the rat, making it pink.

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