Thursday, August 22, 2013

Keef the Thief: Won! (with Final Rating)

The sad part is, there's actually a plot-related reason behind the baby with a mohawk holding an electric guitar.

Keef the Thief: A Boy and His Lockpick
United States
Naughty Dog (Developer), Electronic Arts (Publisher)
Released 1989 for DOS, Amiga, Apple IIgs
Date Started: 18 August 2013
Date Ended: 22 August 2013
Total Hours: 17
Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult (3.5/5)
Final Rating: 38
Ranking at Time of Posting: 117/142 (82%)
Ranking at Game #403: 323/403 (80%)

Keef the Thief is a game with some innovative elements and a decent plot, hurt by its own idiocy. I realize that I continually open myself to accusations that I'm humorless, but I don't think that's the case. I like good humor--humor that flows from context, character, and situation. I don't like relentless silliness, especially when the writers think they're being more clever than they are. Keef is the CRPG equivalent of Carrot Top.

In my rush to get out of the very decade that would produce such a game, I played far too much of it since my last post. I should have issued four full posts about Keef plus a separate "final rating," but I didn't want to drag it on that long, so you're getting some heavy summary here.

The game has the outlines of a good plot and main quest, although both only slowly become clear through exploration. Much of the main quest involved breaking into these various locations, navigating the mazes, and stealing the artifacts. This, in turn, involved a couple of major challenges, one fair, one not.

1. Maze navigation. There were several very large, multi-level indoor mazes, all of which required extensive mapping to ensure I didn't miss key elements. Hidden treasures and secret doors were so plentiful that I learned to "search" every step and while facing every wall, lest I miss something, although this slowed down navigation considerably. One maze in particular, in Mem Santi, would have had me tearing my hair out if I hadn't already lost all of it. The corridors freely went under and over each other, and entering certain doors caused me to teleport back to the beginning of the maze. Exploring mazes brings other challenges, such as ensuring that you have enough food (it turns out there's a spell called MAKUS FOODUS), light spells, and lock picks to go the distance. There were also a few places where I had to cast a special spell for searching (it was obvious when I entered a clear quest location but didn't find anything with the regular "search") or unlocking a door. Altogether, maze navigation was very time-consuming but not unfair.

You have to search for secret doors on every wall in this game.

2. Disarming traps. This system, which I covered briefly last time, turned out to be maddeningly unfair. There were three treasure rooms with multiple traps each, and each trap (unless I missed something) can only be disarmed through a long process of trial and error in which you carefully test different possibilities and absorb the damage when you're wrong. Some of the traps had 12-15 possible options! Even when I had maximum health, traps were capable of instantly killing me. And as I found out, achieving 100% in the "Disarm" skill in no way guarantees that you'll be 100% successful in disarming, even when you've identified the right course of action.

This is one of several pages of options for one of several traps. The incorrect option damages me. The correct option can automatically kill me. Fun.

The good news is that the game remembers when you've disarmed a trap, so you can disarm it, leave the room, save, and return to try the next one. The bad news is that two of these rooms were deep inside large dungeons that took 10-15 minutes to navigate, and you can't save inside dungeons. It took me hours of gameplay to both identify the right actions and disarm all the traps successfully. It's a horrible game mechanic; at least some clue as to the right actions should have been provided.

Although the area was called the "Tri-Cities," only one of them--the starting city, Same Mercon--was really a traditional city, with NPCs, shops, taverns, and such. The other two were essentially dungeons. The artifacts that I recovered from them each raised one attribute to 100%. While this was welcome, it also somewhat defeated the purpose of the grinding and leveling I'd been doing. I eventually got to the point that I found further leveling a waste of time, and I started running from every combat except for a few inescapable fixed combats.

Such as this battle against a hydra.

The magic system turned out to be slightly more complex than I covered last time. In addition to mixing the right reagents, you also have to pick the right shape in which to mix them: the Circle of Perfect Unity, the Pyramid of Directed Power, the Cube of Irresistible Force, or the Pentagram of Infinite Conveyance. Each shape was only available once I found its associated scroll. Each scroll provided a handful of the possible spells, but when I sat down and tried every combination of reagent in each shape, I found a bunch of additional ones. I don't think I missed anything; I think, rather, that the player is supposed to use the clues from the named spells to reason out additional ones.

The "infinite conveyance" spells all required the phoenix eggs I'd been stealing from that tree.

I didn't find offensive spells very useful in the game. I preferred to conserve my magic points for healing spells and trust my sword for attacks. There were a few "mass damage" spells that were theoretically helpful, but it took three or four to defeat most high-level enemies, which exhausted my spell points. None of the combats were overly difficult, not even the few "boss" combats. I think the most difficult was supposed to be the Magician King of Tel Hande.

There were some interesting side quests that provided better armor and weapons, including a series of arena combats at Tel Hande that provided me with the most powerful sword in the game, named (for some reason) "Bruce."

At one point, I found Telloc's skull and, just like Mondain in Ultima IV, cast it into an abyss. I'm not sure if this was necessary to win the game, or just a side-quest.

The main plot came together when I found Telloc's Library. It joined two separate dungeons, and I had to enter each of them one at a time and unlock the respective doors with a key I found in the Mem Santi treasury.

Once inside, I found a scroll that described how Telloc became the all-powerful god-king in the first place: he used a magic spell to fuse together all the artifacts I'd been finding, each of which maxed its respective attribute: the Gem of Wisdom (wisdom), the Globe of Power (charisma), the Plate of Strength (strength), the Arm of Wealth (luck), the Arm of Love (constitution), and the Artifact of Mem (speed). I guess after his death, his construct fell apart and the artifacts were dispersed to the respective treasuries from which I looted them.

As a CRPG player, I'm always grateful that tyrants keep such detailed journals.

The scroll provided the ingredients for the spell (ELMUS PASTUS) necessary to re-combine the artifacts. I found the scroll well before I'd found all the artifacts, but slowly I gathered them. When I had them all, I used Telloc's magic word ("TUNA") to reveal the stairway to his secret lab above Tel Empor. I climbed the stairs, cast the spell, forged the artifact, and became the new god-king. When the town elder who'd exiled me said, "I don't ever want to see you here again, not even if you do conquer the world and become God-King," I thought he was kidding.

Again, of course, the game had to sabotage itself in the endgame message, which I reprint below:

You are crowned King of the Land and you take the hand of the lovely Pink Dragon waitress, Babs. Life is good, and Babs soon gives birth to the prince, Keef the Thief Jr. Suddenly, life is not so easy. Jr. stumbles upon the +3 guitar "Jimmy," changes his name to Flem, and along with Gruk, the old king, and Al Handrata, form the heavy metal band Axe. This is just too much for Babs and she heads for the hills, where she lives on kelp and Valium with her sister, Sushi the mermaid. She leaves the falls only to work at the Pink Dragon in a futile attempt to make enough to pay her old credit card bills. You cannot stand domestic living, and soon you realize there is only one thing that will settle the emptiness. So once again you set out to kill and maim...once again you set out to live the good life...

Even after the "The End" screen above, the game lets you keep playing to clear up any additional quests, starting from your new castle. The NPCs in Same Mercon don't recognize your new status or anything, though.

I missed until late in the game that it keeps a "scoreboard" of several different meters. I had apparently found all the necessary treasure, and done all possible thieving, but I missed out on 3% of "quests" and 26% of "magic" (I assume I needed to mix and cast every spell for that; I think I mixed them all but I didn't cast them all). Nonetheless, I declined to keep going.

On to the GIMLET!

  • 5 points for the game world. If you use a scalpel to cut out the nonsense, the back story and game world are actually quite compelling, and it's fun the way you uncover bits of lore from both people and scrolls. Unlike many games of the era, it actually uses its back story throughout the game itself, with key figures in the manual actually encountered in the game. And the world is persistent: doors remain unlocked, traps remain disarmed, enemies remain dead.
  • 4 points for character creation and development. You have no choice but to play as Keef the Thief, so there's no class-specific role-playing or anything. All these points go to the "development" aspect, which does a decent job with both leveling and continual skill progression.

My stats towards the end, before I found the Plate of Strength.

  • 4 points for NPC interaction. It's perhaps the most bizarre system I've ever encountered. You can ask NPCs about a variety of topics, but you have to pay them. The associated fee does not seem in any way commensurate with the value of the information they provide. Certain NPC dialogues are absolutely essential for plot progression, and certain ones are just dumb jokes from the developers, which makes it a little maddening at the beginning of the game, as you're trying to conserve funds.

This cost 3,000 gold pieces.

  • 3 points for encounters and foes. The monsters are nothing special. They basically come in two varieties--brutes and magic users--but neither has anything in the way of sophisticated attacks. When they cast spells that damage you in combat, you don't even know what they're casting. They're not described anywhere in the game manual, and basically you just plow through them. I'm going to give a point to the thievery/trap system in this category because it's a kind of "encounter" and I don't have anywhere else to score it. Although it's intriguing, it's done very poorly, requiring extensive save-scumming, grinding, and repetition to disarm traps and steal items.

Well, unfortunately...

  • 4 points for magic and combat. The combat system is interesting but ultimately unrewarding, as you simply charge around the battle map and hack at enemies. There are some missile weapons, but I had trouble getting them to work well, and it was easier just to charge and swing. The magic system is more interesting, with its use of reagents and spell circles, and requiring some effort on the part of the player to figure out the spells. It's too bad the spells aren't more necessary to the game, and that they all have such stupid names.

"MUTUS OMAHAUS" is a shield spell. What I want to know is if Mutual of Omaha paid for that product placement.

  • 4 points for equipment. There's a good variety of weapons and armor, artifacts, and utility items such as thieves' tools. Weapon and armor upgrades arrive so frequently that you sometimes barely have time to get used to one before you have another. Through weapon score, weapon speed, armor protection, and armor speed ratings, the game makes it clear which items are best.

It is vaguely annoying that there's no way to get rid of unneeded stuff.

  • 5 points for economy. You get gold from both thievery and combat, and there's a good balance between the two. As a thief, you don't have to pay for very much--you can even steal meals, rooms at the inn, and horses--but stealing individual reagents is so time-consuming that you're likely to use almost all your funds for that. After the first act, the weapons and armor sold in town pale in comparison to what you get for quest rewards, but you always need to replenish thieves' goods, and if nothing else you can pay for healing and magic recharging. And, as mentioned above, you have to pay to get NPCs to converse with you about key things. Nonetheless, I still ended the game with thousands of gold pieces, which I never like.

I could walk around and regenerate health and magic, but this is faster.

  • 4 points for quests. In addition to a reasonably fun main quest, the game bucks the general trend of the era by offering several side quests with nice equipment rewards. There's no role-playing associated with any of these, unfortunately.
  • 2 points for graphics, sound, and interface. If you can get past the 1980s hair, the graphics are tolerable, especially in the quest-specific locations. Unfortunately, there's no sound in the game except a horrid disco-inspired track that plays infrequently. The interface is generally annoying. You cannot rely exclusively on keyboard or mouse. The mouse calibration is slightly off, making it easy to click on the wrong item (though I realize this might be an emulator issue), and no matter what you're doing, it's easy to accidentally click on an errant part of the screen and go lurching off in an unintended direction. The game caches keystrokes, and combat has a way of ending very abruptly, meaning that as you transition back into the world, you find yourself racing around the map as the game implements the last few commands you entered on the combat screen. I also didn't like the transitions from static screens to free exploration and the changes in navigation that accompanied them.

Scenes like this are evocative, even if the text is not.

  • 3 points for gameplay. I admire the nonlinearity--from Same Mercon, you can do the rest of the game in just about any order--and it lasts just about the right amount of time. But the challenge level is unbalanced, with thievery far too hard (traps remain horribly fatal even after achieving 100% in thieving skills) and combat a little too easy. There's really no replayability, either.

The subtotal comes to 38, a respectable score for the era, suggesting I liked it about as much as The Mines of Titan or Prophecy: The Fall of Trinadon. But as I said at the outset, it irks me how little faith the developers had in the integrity of the game as a serious fantasy story, and from the box art to the endgame text, they filled it with the most senseless drivel. We have anachronisms:

Dumb speeches from the game's villains:

Stupid names for foes:

And silly in-jokes in NPC dialogues:

What particularly annoys me is that this is fundamentally not a comedy game. It tells a serious plot, and all it would have taken was some changes to the text to offer the player a more interesting, immersive experience. The game is good enough that it actually pulled me out of the knee-jerk loathing that I exhibited during the first posting--but not so good that it left me with warm feelings at the end. Nonetheless, I'll decline to subtract any points for the game's misguided humor and let it stand at 38.

Upon seeing this box, there is absolutely no chance I ever would have purchased the game.

The developers were only 19 years old when they wrote the game, so they can be forgiven a certain lack of sophistication in their humor. It was their publisher's responsibility to curb it and help create a more marketable game. In fact, it seems they did the opposite. MobyGames quotes the developer's web site as saying:

Keef was a classic sword and sorcery role-playing game. While we were making it, Andy entered sarcastic text as a place holder for what he believed would be the real text in the final release. EA liked the humor so much that they decided to make the entire game a comedy. The effect that this decision had on sales was no joke, however.

If this quote truly was on Naughty Dog's site at one point, it no longer is, so without context I'm not sure if the last line means that sales were good or bad (I assume the latter). In any event, it doesn't seem to have hurt the developers very much. This is one of the few developers of the era whose company still exists, and they went on to develop the popular Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter series. They have one more RPG to their credit, 1991's Rings of Power, but it was only released for the Sega Genesis and thus is not on my list.

Speaking of the list, after 14 months, we've come to the end of 1989! It somehow seems fitting that this game, with its unmistakably 80s character graphics, serves as the final game of the 1980s (at least on the master DOS/PC list). We'll move on to 1990 after a quick entry on a 1981 game called Dragon Fire.


  1. Funny, I actually found mazes to be worse offenders than traps - Mem Santi was the point where I gave up on Keef. Maybe that's because in Adventure games this kind of random death is quite common (yes, Sierra, I'm looking at you)

    1. Mem Santi was horribly frustrating for a little while, until I realized what the maze was doing. If I hadn't been mapping it, I would have ended up walking in circles forever and getting very frustrated.

    2. The moment I realized what Mem Santi was doing was exactly the moment I ragequit. I HATE mapping challenges.

    3. See, that is just a classic D&D scheme from the early days, which is why Dwarves detect slopping passages was so useful, and why clay and glass marbles are on so many editions equipment lists.

  2. Congratulations :)

  3. So which game is Game of the Year 1989?
    And which is runner up?

    1. I'm sure the Addict will tell us soon, but I'd guess GOTY is Dark Heart of Uukrul, with runner-up being Sword of Aragon.

    2. I'm thinking Dark Heart of Uukrul or Curse of the Azure Bonds.

    3. I have three finalists that I'm trying to decide among. I'm curious about what YOU all think should be GOTY--keeping in mind that it's not just about the highest score, but also innovation, how well it exemplifies the year's themes and trends, and its lasting influence.

    4. Hmm... I'm guessing the real 3 contenders are Dark Heart of Uukrul, Hero's Quest, and CotAB. Sword of Aragon was innovative but so much unlike anything else that it can't be seen as influential or fitting with a theme. My personal bias is against Hero's Quest so I'd go with the more innovative Dark Heart instead of the sequel CotAB, even though CotAB has more lasting influence in some ways.

    5. I hope it's DHoU.

      It has a a lot of intelligent puzzles and combat is pretty challenging.

      Also, they have a very unique gameplay system & mechanics. Pretty kick-ass, to say the least.

      Whereas CoAB is a game employing an existing engine with a rehashed storyline from a book with the same name.

    6. No one else thinks of Dragon Wars as a contender for GOTY? Aw. I daresay its nonlinearity and multiple solutions for assorted puzzles were quite innovative by 80's standards. Even today, there are many nonlinear RPGs but not so many for which a given puzzle (such as, "How do I escape from Purgatory?") might have 4 or more solutions. All this and a good story too!

    7. I'd vote for Chaos Strikes Back, with Curse of the Azure Bonds as runner up. Honourable mentions to Magic Candle and Dark Heart of Uukrul.

    8. Damn! Forgot about Magic Candle! Okay, I think Magic Candle is better in this case. The game world is huge, you could split your parties, force your dwarves (that gets seasick!) and hobbitses into indentured servitude to supply your party with crack money, knockable doors, very open and non-linear... too many new and innovative stuff that even modern RPGs could not emulate.

    9. I'd say Hero Quest, with DHoU as a runner-up/underdog of the year. DHoU might do some things better, but Hero Quest exemplifies what role-playing should be about. It's also a more historically important game. And there was a trend for RPG/Adventures this year, so that's that ;)

    10. I'm going with Hero Quest/Quest for Glory I as well

    11. Surely not. Ultima 5 was so 1988.

    12. Are we all forgetting NetHack 3.0?

      More seriously, I think DHoU was the biggest surprise this year. A relatively unknown gem. Also highest rate by 1 point.

    13. I gave NetHack GOTY in 1987. Although version 3.0 was the one that I ascended, I don't see it offering so much new that it deserves separate consideration for the award.

  4. I find your assessment fair. Since you won't play Rings of Power and it is one of my favourite games, I'll let you know it's a much more serious affair (there are joke bits, but they're relegated to the background and aren't puerile, more like the QfG series). It has an amazing sense of place and has a very unique setting for an Ultima-derived game. Keef the Thief makes an appearance too.

    All the characters in RoP belong to different schools of magic. Knights are of the Division school for example, and all their spells are damage spells, called stuff like 'Rend', 'Cleave', etc. There's Necromancers, Diviners, Sorcerers and so on.

    The first part of the quest has you assemble a full party from all the schools, spanning a journey all over the (globe-like) gameworld. Every party member aquisition has their own quest line. Then you search for all the titular Rings of Power.

    The game has a good trade system to it, and the food/water meters from Keef remain a factor. The combat system is unique, as you only cast spells and control the demeanour of your party, you can't select whom to attack from your enemies directly or where to move your guys. So if you wanted your Knight to cast 'Rend' to the arch-mage in the back row, you'd have to set him to 'Aggressive' and let it attack the closest enemy, and hope that after the casting, your knight would move enough tiles closer to the arch-mage in the back for next round.

    Here's an LP for when you get to 1991 and are curious:

    1. I've heard Rings of Power is a love it or hate it kind of game, and a long one at that. I'm going to be picking it up fairly soon (9 - 10 more games before I get there). The combat sounds like something I'd find aggravating; I hope it's not as bad as it sounds.

    2. It has a host of other issues;- The graphics are almost offensively bad (even by 16-bit standards), the music is hideous, the difficulty erratic, NPCs are timewasters, most of the spell list is superfluous, and the whole thing is saddled with a sticky interface\control system that seems to run at about 3-5 fps.

      But....non-linear, big world, varied quests, and original setting. - That was kinda rare on the genesis.

  5. Great assessment of the game, I have never actually played, but the traps really show the lack of experience on the devs part on those days. There are some broken things in Keep the Thief, but the story seems interesting enough to keep coming back.

    Good Job on the review, keep it up!

    P.S. You're in the recommended list on No Review Left Behind. :-)

    Miguel C.

    1. Thanks for letting me know. Is that the first time, 'cause it's far from my best review.

  6. Once again, great job on another review. I get a sense the trap system should have had some hints on how to handle them, and I wouldn't enjoy the game at all. We had the demo at one point, but I don't remember being able to travel very far (I think it was just exploring Same Mercon, and possibly part of the wilderness).

    1. I would have HAPPILY paid for trap hints. That should have been a mechanic.

  7. I'm glad to see the end. I know I'll never get there! I remember I was about 10 when I played this - the humor wasn't off-putting at the time. I remember I only had 4 color CGA and a pc speaker too.. ahh the memories.

    Two things: Nudus Bunsus is a nudity easter egg, if i remember correctly. You cast it on the mermaid... i think...

    On a more serious note, I think the reason that talking to people costs money is to slowly dole out plot elements and hints. Back in the day, it took a minute or two to load up a save, so you probably couldn't save-scum as easily while thieving, leaving you to go out in the world and level up for cash, and pop back in to town for one hint at a time. Stealing everything from the town was a slow, gradual process for that reason, which kept you earning money, and thus getting hints slowly.

    Anyway, congrats! Love the site.

    1. Thanks for the addendum. As tempting as it is to re-load the game, mix the spell, and see what 1980s EGA nudity looks like in a game that doesn't have the best graphics to begin with, I think I'll pass. I'd be surprised if it works on the mermaid, though: she's already nude, just with strategically placed hair.

      That's a good point about the relative speed of reloading. I sometimes forget that it was much more of a chore for 1980s players. It's still a bit weird that you have to pay people for essentially small talk, but it's an interesting mechanic.

    2. Heh, I was going to ask what Nudus Bunsus did. Clearly something in the humour of Keef speaks to me...

  8. Despite being a console exclusive, Rings of Power is pretty much a Western/PC-style RPG (as opposed to a JRPG). I didn't play it much as a kid, as it sort of through me for a loop, but I think it's generally thought well of.

  9. Congratulations on clearing out the 1980s! While I do hope (probably in vain) that you go back to Faery Tale Adventure at some point, I'm looking forward to seeing what the early 1990s have in store.

    BTW did you delete all the pre-1990 stuff from the master game list? I realize completed games are in the other sheet, but I enjoyed looking at all the "not-quite-a-CRPG" false starts and unplayed games -- it was a useful reference list.

    Also, since folks have been talking about Naughty Dog's "other" RPG (Rings of Power), a question: does anyone know if it originally came with a map?

    1. No idea.

      I was only able to get a pirated copy from a shady (and THE only) computer peripherals dealer back in the 80s/90s.

    2. Why does it seem that no matter how much time passes, no matter how much I blog, I can't seem to escape my failure to complete that completely boring, tactically-bereft, obscure game from 1987?

      Yes, I did delete the pre-current stuff. I didn't see what purpose it was serving. I see your point now, but there's no easy way to undo. I think about restoring it at some point.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. Nevermind. I'm blind. Deleted my bad knee-jerk comment above. It says on the back of the box in the top right corner, "Full color map of the magical world of Ushka Bau Included!" So, there you go. It was included.

    5. Rings of Power came with a wonderful manual, full of lore and illustrations, but it did not come with a map. You have a map in-game, which is tile-to-tile perfect.

      BTW we have extracted the whole world of Rings of Power,

    6. @CRPG Addict: Ouch! No intent to dismay -- I wasn't aware that anyone else was haranguing you about Faery Tale Adventure. Personally, I just really liked the game, and particularly enjoyed its wide-open, sparse feel. But I played the Genesis version, which may (or may not) be a more pleasant experience than other ports.

      I think Google Docs does have some kind of a revision history that'd allow retrieving the old version of the spreadsheet, but I can hardly ask you to spend time on that! Maybe someone downloaded a copy before the deletion of pre-1990s stuff and could post it?

      @Zenic Reverie, @Helm: Cool, thanks. I know that a paper map for Rings of Power was definitely produced -- there are a couple current Ebay auctions with photos of it -- but it's never been 100% clear to me whether it was a pack-in or something you'd mail-order. I have an otherwise-complete copy of the game, but have yet to play it, fearing that I'd be adrift without a map (speaking of Faery Tale Adventure...imagine playing that maplessly!). But it sounds like I'll have everything I need.

    7. Do not worry, there is an in-game map, and if you hover over the city tiles, their names are shown. There are also coordinates, and an in-game sextant, a la Ultima.

    8. For the sake of completeness: JeezChet, I can't believe you never finished BT 2 & 3!

      Because going back and playing a worse Dragon Wars must be soooo tempting.

    9. PK, I was 50% kidding, but Faery Tale Adventure seems to get mentioned more than any other game I didn't complete, and I just don't get it's appeal. I mean, I could see getting on my case about maybe Autoduel, but Faery Tale Adventure? C'mon.

      Thanks for the tip about Google Drive. I restored a previous version.

    10. @Helm: Did you get the game new, and can confirm it didn't come with a map? I'm going off the back of the box, which says it came with a map. See here, top right corner:

      Also, this is for the US release. The back cover doesn't make any such claim for PAL releases.

      @PK Thunder: Did the Genesis version of Faery Tale Adventure come with a map originally? I feel like my games are lacking now. Wish me luck trying to get through both without the map.

      @Chet: The sequel is coming up at some point in the future.

    11. @Zenic Reverie: The manual of the Genesis version of Faery Tale Adventure has a map in the centerfold. It's small, but legible, and gets the job done. It also has a complete walkthrough in the back, though I think there are least two errors! But be careful not to read it unless you get completely stuck, it really does spoil the game and there's no puzzle in it that can't be solved by systematically visiting every distinctive location on the map.

      @CRPG Addict: First off, huge thanks for restoring the old list, much appreciated!

      As for Faery Tale Adventure, all I can say is that it's one of a very few games that still fills me with an authentic sense of wonder and exploration. There's something about the huge, open emptiness of its world that evokes what it actually feels like to set out into the wilderness, especially from a child's perspective (I grew up in a rural area on the edge of the woods, FWIW).

      I get something of the same feeling from (the console ports of) Drakkhen and Lord of the Rings Vol. 1 (the latter of which is very different from the PC game, BTW). It's probably not a coincidence that all three games are often-maligned! But that sense of aestheticized wandering is somehow meaningful to me.

      I remember when I realized that there's an entire dungeon area in Faery Tale Adventure that has literally nothing of significance in it. My fiancée and I mapped it out carefully, checked every part of it, and it's just a huge, empty labyrinth that can be easily skipped: if you went right instead of left, you'd never encounter it, and never miss it.

      That made a huge impression on me, since I'm so used to games where everything serves the overall plot arc, or is designed to reward thorough/OCD players who check every nook and cranny. By contrast, my character's own irrelevance to this place made it feel like a real place to me, if that makes any sense.

    12. I bought this game in Greece for my Mega Drive, circa 1993. I was 10. It came with a manual but no map. I still have the game, in its box, with its manual. So, yep, the PAL version didn't have a map in the box. Shame.

    13. FTA II is a LOT better. Still, pretty boring though, even with pretty graphics, voice acting and solid character advancement.

  10. Grats on getting through this.
    It appears the game grew on you a bit, actually.

    As for GOTY, from all the games of that time, Ultima V is the one that I think stood out because of:

    - Living and breathing environment, some of it even persisted
    - interesting storyline
    - huge world for exploration
    - good dialogue system and good dialogue
    - good battle mechanics
    - pretty good graphics for that time
    - day/night cycle with npc scheduling
    - interesting dungeons with unique themes
    - no "grind and then kill the main villain" story
    - did I mention it does not have a "grind and then kill the main villain" story?

    1. You an JJ (above) are in the wrong year. U5 was 1988. I gave GOTY to Pool of Radiance instead, but U5 was a close second, and overall it remains my highest-rated game.

  11. I suspect that "Bruce" is a reference to a Monty Python sketch about a group of Australians, all named Bruce, who are the heads of a university philosophy department. The whole sketch is basically the Bruces sitting around drinking beer and shouting, "No pooftahs," hence Bruce is the butchest sword in the realm.

    A pretty dumb reference, I know, but in keeping with the general level of dumbness in the rest of the game's humor.

    1. That Monty Python sketch definitely popped in mind as the intended reference

    2. I thought of Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, since the punks who made the game seemed to be metal fans.

    3. That seems most likely. I was thinking maybe it was after Bruce Springsteen, as the "Boss" sword.

  12. I just can't get over how friggin' ridicilous Keef looks. That one picture says better than a thousand words what was wrong with the eigthies.

    1. You mean what was RIGHT in the 80s.

      They make me sad though, as I know no matter what I do, I will NEVER be as cool as Snake Plissken.

      I mean, LOOK at him: (Random image via Google image search)

    2. You'll never be as cool as Snake, but at least you'll never make Escape from LA...

      (I pretty sure that movie is the reason they killed Snake in JA2)

    3. I always thought Solid Snake was modeled after him...

    4. Solid Snake is based on him. Metal Gear Solid 2 spoiler: Jura Fanxr tbrf haqre pbire va ZTF2 ur rira pnyyf uvzfrys Yg. Cyvffxra.

  13. You mean the decade that gave us hair metal, Boy George, The A-Team, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Carrie Fisher and her skimpy slave costume, Brigitte Nielsen as Red Sonja and probably the best line in the history of film-making? :D

    1. Only 3 of those 7 things are cool.

    2. I'm curious as to which those are.

    3. I get three as well, though I'd bet they aren't the same three (Hair metal, The A-Team, Star Wars)

      However you forgot Escape from New York, D&D 2nd edition, GURPS, Shadowrun, Cyberpunk, Escape from New York, the Nintendo Entertainment System, the Commadore 64...

    4. I didn't say everything was wrong with the eighties, just that that picture of Keef pretty much sums up all the things that were wrong with it.

    5. 3 out of 7? You're more generous than I am :))

      Personally I think all the things I've mentioned are more than a little silly when you look back on them. Except, perhaps, the Star Wars one... 'cause, you know, Princess Leia in a skimpy costume.

    6. The things you all are mentioning are only good for their retro-kitsch value. Tell me if The A-Team was an original-run show on TV today, you'd watch it. Heck, it's so goofy and tame, they'd probably put it on Saturday mornings.

    7. The humour was horrible, though I did like "Son of a biiiii"

    8. I was a wee lad, so my 80s was Astroboy, the F/A-18 Hornet, Super Mario bros and Ferrari Testarossa.

      They all still have some merit.

    9. I bought some of the A-Team series on DVD. I couldn't take it anymore after Season 2 where every episode was identical:
      - Roll into town.
      - Fight a losing battle against bad guys.
      - Musical montage where they build a tank out of a vacuum cleaner and a toilet.
      - Includes shot of Mr. T carrying something heavy.
      - Includes shot of Hannibal giving a thumbs-up.
      - Includes shot of someone (I can't remember who) welding something.
      - Fight bad guys again and defeat them, although no one is injured.

      Loved the show as a kid, but yeah, didn't age well and does not hold long-term appeal.

    10. I watched it at 14 or so on Spike or whatever it was called back then. Now I refuse to rewatch it so as to not spoil the memories.

    11. "Fight bad guys again and defeat them, although no one is injured."

      All the bad guys in that show were like, "Wow! They're willing to empty entire M-16 clips into the fixed obstacles around me! I'd better surrender!"

    12. I had a similar experience with Knight Rider not too long ago.

      Then there was Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs, which was my favourite animated series as a kid (at least partly because of the kick-ass electro/metal theme song)... a few episodes of that convinced me that sometimes childhood memories are best not revisited.

    13. Look on the bright side: Now we are heading into the 90s, when this (Image A3, top right) was considered cool:

      Also every image of Richie in this, with his glorious sleeveless flannel:

      This might be 80s style splilling over though: First season of the show had Richie running around like this in ripped jeans and a bandana and flannel, 2nd season toned things down to a much more modern look.

    14. Jesus God, Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs has the most horrible theme song ever.

  14. Hey Chet, I'm playing through Rings of Power at the moment and in some research I found a recent interview with the Naughty Dog guys. They described the story in Keef the Thief having a serious tone in the beginning, but EA stepped in and suggested the game need more humor (even assigned a comedy writer to the task). Also, it seems it was less the developers choice and more on EA to move to console for Rings of Power.

    1. An interesting article that expands on the quote above. Thanks for linking it.

  15. You can cast Nudus Bunsus on the barmaid and the secretary of naughty dog in tree fort I think?

    Barmaid just tits, secretary actually strips.

  16. I wasn't the only interested party:
    Alex Lee

    105 posts
    16 May 2008 at 12:34pm
    Hi all,

    Has anyone encountered Cookie, the Naughty Dog secretary, in Dream Zone? She appeared in Keef the Thief, and if you cast a particular magic spell in her presence...something would happen.

    I know she's in Dream Zone (sector editors were fun when you couldn't think of anything else to do) and what you do to make her appear, I have no idea.

    Even Jason Rubin, who did the graphics for Dream Zone and Keef the Thief (and went on with his game development buddy Andy Gavin to create Crash Bandicoot) can't remember how to access Cookie when quizzed about it by my friend Andrew who interviewed him back in 2003.

    It's time we found a NEW easter egg in a IIGS game!

    - Alex

    1. You cast the Spanish Fly spell at her that you get from the Ogre in Same Mercon(?) - the one that cost 3,000 gp.

  17. There was a strategy guide for this game that Naughty Dog published that was basically a novella walkthrough of the game. I think it had the info about how to find the Secretary. I don't think the Nudus Bunsus spell did anything there, though, at least not on the IIGS. I remember using AppleWorks GS to look at all the picture assets for the game and while the nude barmaid was there, I don't remember any other secret nudes.

    1. Yeah on the MS-DOS version there were at LEAST as many uses for Nudus Bunsus as have been mentioned here; pretty sure I found at least one more, and I did not ever fully explore the game. I was just a teenage boy so clearly I had supernatural abilities in finding uses for that spell in-game.

  18. Cans of beer? Anachronism? Pffffff


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