Release Date: 1998
Back in the days when the television screen would go black at night after the playing of the Star Spangled Banner; when a test pattern was the only thing you could watch all night on television; back in those delightful days, I used to sneak out of bed. Every Sunday night after the local news there would follow an hour-long rerun of an old detective show, then a 30-minute community relations broadcast--and finally around 1 a.m.--Flash Gordon. In glorious, scratchy black and white. Featuring Buster Crabbe as Flash and the deliciously evil Charles Middleton as Ming the Merciless. Almost forty years after their initial run, these cheesy, addictive Saturday afternoon movie serials had become a staple of my television viewing. It was a ... wait a minute, you know how you sometimes wonder if someone feels the same way about a game as you? Well, Ray and I decided to collaborate on this review. As I am writing this, his article arrived in my email. I am now going to let Ray take over, and I guarantee you won't believe his opening paragraph! (I will, by the way, be occasionally interrupting Ray's review)
Just because I feel so close to you, Dear Reader, I'll confess a guilty little secret. I love tacky, low-budget science fiction and horror films from the late 50s and early 60s. Movies like Them, The Beginning of the End, Valley of Gwangi, Reptilicus, and, yes, Plan Nine from Outer Space.
This week I've been playing the adventure game equivalent of one of these American International Pictures extravaganzlettes. It's called Time Warrior: The Armageddon Device and it's from 1998. Never heard of it? Neither had I.
(A Just Adventure factoid for those who just have to be in the know: Time Warrior was originally self-published and released in 1998 by Robert Stock. The title had very little distribution--a few Electronics Boutiques, Virgin Megastores, Micro Centers, and some small chains. It was reviewed in a small number of the mainstream gaming magazines. That is was even noticed by the gaming press is a tribute to the tenaciousness of Robert Stock and his dedication to the adventure genre. --Randy)
This is a first-person, point-and-click science fiction adventure from Stock's Eye Productions. The format is attractive, pre-rendered, Myst-lite slideshow with video inserts.
The plot deals with a monstrous intergalactic bully called "The Armageddon Device" that looks like a giant, evil Cheeto (the crunchy kind). There is only one man who can save us all, and that's ... nope, it's notyou. But your object in the game is to go find him (the poor dear is trapped in a stasis field like Sleeping Beauty).
(You must admit that this is an original concept and does succeed in making you feel as if you truly are involved in the game and not just watching an interactive movie. --Randy)
So far, so good. I began playing the game with a lot of goodwill, enjoying the horrible Alien Makeup on the terrible actors in the cut-scenes. I enjoyed poking around the empty space station, lunar colony, and other environments.
After a while, though, the experience became much like watching your kid in the senior class play. For the first half-hour, you're buoyed along with your own sense of support and delight at just how gosh-darn good the kids are doing. After about forty-five minutes, however, the reality sets in, and you realize with a sinking heart that you're actually going to have to sit through the entirety of Flower Drum Song performed by a bunch of pimply Caucasian adolescents.
I'm afraid the same thing happened to me while playing Time Warrior. At first, the video sequences were fun, with spaceships moving jerkily through unconvincing starfields looking for all the world like Amazon Women on the Moon. After a while, however, the video sequences just got ... awfully long. It would be different if they were full of pertinent information or instructions on how to proceed with the game. But alas, not much. Just a whole lot of amateur hour Star-Wars-esque battles.
If the graphics are often amateurish, at least they're ... wildly outdated. Though copyrighted as 1998, the game looks more like 1992.
(Ah ... but I think the graphics are purposely presented as appearing to be outdated, thus not overshadowing the B movie atmosphere that the game is attempting to accomplish. For that reason, the graphics succeed for me. I do agree that some of the video sequences are extremely long and at times seem to be disassociated from the main storyline, but it is also exceptionally easy to sit back and be an armchair Brett Farve. After all, two years is an eternity in computer gaming graphics, and our perception is often colored by what we have played since. I think it took more guts to purposely use outdated, low-budget graphics in an attempt to invoke a B movie atmosphere than it does to spend millions to make another "cutting-edge" fiasco that offers little in plot or characterization. Not to mention that Time Warriorseems to be paying homage to the low-budget sci-fi films we remember from our childhood. Myst clone? Maybe. But a Myst clone with a plot and subject matter. --Randy)
The same with the gameplay. The puzzles began to feel more and more arbitrary as the game wore on. Wander around this huge area, click on everything, find a cabinet that opens, find doodad, schlep back to your ship, see what doodad can do, wash, rinse repeat.
Even worse: near the end, the game got truly maze-heavy. Yes! He said the "M" word! Now, I don't really mind a maze if it's creative and interesting (the 3D Mayan maze in Sanitarium) or very logical to the narrative (the sewers in Traitors Gate). But I have no use for boring, pointless, unattractive mazes like this. Very lazy, amateurish game-extenders, if you ask me. I've got to tell you, after struggling through The Daedalus Encounter and now Time Warrior, I don't care if I live my whole life without encountering another spaceship maze. Eeech.
(I will never, ever disagree with anyone concerning the inappropriateness of mazes in adventure games. --Randy)
As much as I like to support garage games, I can't really recommend this title. Unless you find campy sci-fi especially fun, or you're desperately nostalgic for the return of video, or you're just a ravenous adventure completist. Come to think of it, all those things are true of me ... and my enjoyment of the game lasted about an hour. Oops.
(Well, I have to admit campy anything is my weakness. The cheesier the better. Probably the hardest task of all to pull off is quality cheese. If done wrong, you end up in the Dungeon of Shame; if done right--instant classic. Time Warrior has its moments, especially early in the game, but I have to agree with Ray that the end result fails to build upon the momentum of a promising beginning. Still, this is a game that is highly accessible to and recommended for beginning adventure gamers or someone looking to plug a hole in his/her collection. --Randy)
Final grade is a grudging D+. But doesn't Tiffany look adorable in her costume?
(My final grade is a B-. I really wanted to give Time Warrior a much higher grade as the work and dedication that went into the product are very evident, but just as sometimes less is more, it also can be less. Still, Robert Stock is to be commended for making a game that, without apologies, is intended to appeal to the novice adventure gamer with a low-end machine. --Randy)
If you liked Time Warrior:
Watch: Flash Gordon (the movie--with soundtrack by Queen!)
Read: Weird Science (the EC comics)
Play: Lightbringer or The Martian Chronicles
8 MB RAM
2X CD-ROM drive
Windows sound card