Gamers today are rather spoiled when it comes to adventure and role playing games. Many decades ago the concept typically was relegated to being little more than point and click adventures. This premise still exists today and Telltale Games has taken the concept into new directions which has kept gamers interesting but for those who don’t remember the, the old school point and click adventures were just that. The games themselves were something of an evolution of text adventure games which were popularized starting in the late 70’s with the release of Zork but as gaming systems and their capabilities evolved, so did the types of games which were released.
In 1985 the now defunct Mindscape released the first of three games which ventured into the realm of point and click. Initially the games were designed for the Macintosh as a part of their MacVenture lines of adventure games. There were four games total in the line, three of which eventually found their way to the Nintendo Entertainment System. There were eventual sequels released such as the case of Shadowgate which had a TurboGrafx CD version as well as a Nintendo 64 adaptation whereas Déjà vu did get an official sequel however it didn’t appear on the NES but was a GameBoy Color title.
The 8-bit Adventure Anthology: Volume I features three of these games as they appeared on the NES back when they were released. Déjà Vu is set in Chicago circa 1941 and players assume the role of Theodore “Ace” Harding, a private eye and retired boxer who finds himself in the restroom of a bar with no memory of what has happened. Ace is also about to be framed for a murder he didn’t commit and now it’s up to the player to put the clues together, find the real murderer, and if possible, regain their memory. Uninvited meanwhile has the player outside of a dark, mysterious house after a car accident. Their younger sister has vanished, possibly inside the manor, and now the player sets out to find her. The house however is the home to some unsavory creatures including undead lurking inside. Shadowgate, the third and final game in the NES series, has the player outside of the keep Shadowgate on their quest to confront the evil Warlock Lord before he can awaken the Behemoth.
As mentioned these three titles originally were released on the Macintosh prior to getting ported to the NES and various other consoles. There are gamers who are certainly too young to remember or perhaps even know about some video games during this time period especially with computer gaming but at the time, the Macintosh was the “start of the art” system. It was a step above those horrible looking PC’s which were dominated by green and black screens and instead the Mac’s replaced that with . . . . black and white. Okay, maybe it wasn’t a huge step but it was better on the eyes and generally the graphics look quite a bit better as well. The leap to consoles however added quite a bit more color although certainly not anything to become overly impressed with but these games were more about story than anything else.
The gaming mechanics between the three games remain relatively unchanged. These are point and click adventures and in order to perform certain actions players must first chose what they wish to do. You might see an object in a room but you can’t simply click on it to pick it up. If you want to look at something you must first select examine (or exam) in order to do so while if you’re looking to pick something up you must first have take highlighted. The system overall is a bit tedious and it becomes obvious that each would have played quite a bit better using a mouse rather than a D-pad. Players need to keep in mind as well that once they have selected an action they will need to change it before doing something else. There’s nothing more annoying that being told that you can’t take the door.
Regardless of the control scheme, that doesn’t mean that these are bad games. They may not be the pinnacle of writing but it’s important to keep in mind the timeframe of their original release. Even the notion that one day a game could be several gigabits was little more than science fiction and something such as Uninvited is only a meager two megabits of memory. In many ways you could think of these games as being the digital equivalent to the Choose Your Own Adventure book series especially with the number of ways that each game has for you to die.
The 8-bit Adventure Anthology isn’t a remake of the original nor is it an enhanced version. Each of the games is presented exactly the way in which they were seen and played on the NES save for thinking that blowing into the cartridge would miraculously get the game to work. The visually and musically are unchanged which for gamers who may not have been that involved with the 8-bit era can be rather annoying but there are those of us who are going to have some great memories and these and other games from that bygone moment in video game history.
This certainly isn’t a trilogy for everyone but for those who love retro gaming or perhaps have never experienced these games previously, the 8-bit Adventure Anthology is definitely a great purchase especially since the games purchased off eBay can’t be rather steep. I found Shadowgate and Deja-Vu selling for moderate prices but Uninvited on the other hand was a bit more on the expensive side. With this collection being billed as Volume 1 I’m curious, as I’m sure other are, to see what might be waiting in possible revisits to the world of retro gaming but for now we have yet another blast from the past which ends up being a fun revisit to some games which may not have become classics in the way others did but still have a solid place in gaming history.
The 8-bit Adventure Anthology: Volume I is currently available on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Stream.
Mike is the resident reviewer for Couponing to Disney and his own site Underland Online. He has a toddler daughter and is obsessed with Haunted Mansion and all things Disney. You can read Mike’s complete bio here.