Games You Never Heard of (But Should Have Played),
The Fool’s Errand- First Released in 1987, Macintosh, DOS, Amiga, Atari ST
Who likes puzzle games? Ok, now how likes hardcore, logical puzzle games? I see the amount of hands in the air shrink quickly….
But for those eggheads with their hands in the air, this one is for you. Back in the mid-1980’s, a designer by the name of Cliff Johnson created perhaps the most clever PC puzzle game in the world. Titled The Fool’s Errand, this adventure tasked the player solve a myriad of word, logic, and visual puzzles to advance to the next part. The puzzles also gave you solutions that were background context to the storyline, connecting the puzzles and chapters in a more abstract way, and even gave you hints into completing puzzles later in the game.
When I say hardcore, I mean it. There are no hint coins à la Professor Layton, and you had no way of keeping track of the puzzle solutions in-game, instead forcing you to write down answers and to use your wits to get by. Thankfully, the passage of time has made The Fool’s Errand a free download (non-Mac users need a specific emulator to do it), so everyone can enjoy a throwback to something both thought-provoking and challenging. The Fool’s Errand was the first game to really challenge me as a player, and it is without a doubt one of the best puzzle games ever created.
Oh, and as an aside, Cliff Johnson plans on releasing a much anticipated sequel to The Fool’s Errand, titled The Fool and his Money, this October. So if I actually piqued your interest, I would look into The Fool’s Errand today, so you know what you are getting into.
Heart of the Alien- First Released in 1994, Sega-CD
In the world of cult, obscure games, Another World (or Out of This World, depending on who you ask) by French designer Eric Chahi is a seminal favorite. An adventure game with cutting-edge graphics that, at the time, breathed life into a story that was all about the visual interpretation of actions, in the full backdrop of a Sci-Fi Great Escape, made it a loved classic.
But what many don’t know is that Another World had a sequel that Chahi had no involvement with (and has since then expressed disappointment in) titled Heart of the Alien. Instead of focusing on the red-headed hero Lester, Heart of the Alien had you step into the shoes of “Buddy,” the alien prisoner who helps you escape in Another World.
But despite the lack of involvement and endorsement by Chahi, Heart of the Alien is actually a decent game. It has the charm of Another World intact by keeping it light on dialogue and full on visual presentation. The story is also fleshed out, showing how Buddy was captured before Lester in flashbacks and an eventual, emotional climax that I don’t want to spoil here. Lastly, the new gameplay element of the energy whip allowed Buddy to swing across pits and charge shields quickly, making Heart of the Alien an unofficial, but excellent continuation, of what Chahi created.
M.U.L.E- First Released in 1983, Atari, Commodore 64, NES, PC, iOS
If there is any title out there that was a game-changer, it was M.U.L.E. Developed by famed game maker Dani Bunten-Berry, M.U.L.E was an economy-based strategy game that is influential to many game designers out there for one reason: it is often considered the grandfather of the multiplayer game.
Keep in mind, this was a single-player game. But what M.U.L.E was able to do was turn a four-player experience into a complex system of supply and demand, allowing collusion and cooperation as you attempt to corner the market on goods in the fictional frontier planet of Irata. With many elements based on sources like Monopoly, M.U.L.E had real time auctions, random events, trading and resource management, all of which had to be balanced in order to be successful.
But what makes M.U.L.E so memorable is how it would become a forerunner of multiplayer. While it would take years before multiplayer games become prevalent, M.U.L.E was easily ahead of its time for emphasizing several players at a time to offer an enthralling experience. The biggest tragedy of M.U.L.E is that of its creator never had a major hit in her lifetime, despite many of her games being considered PC classics in modern times. Regardless, M.U.L.E is almost timeless in its design, and is a game that the new generation may not know about, but should look into because of how influential it was.