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GOTY '23

Participated in the 2023 Game of the Year Event


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Gone Gold

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GOTY '22

Participated in the 2022 Game of the Year Event


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Being part of the Backloggd community for 3 years


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GOTY '21

Participated in the 2021 Game of the Year Event


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Trend Setter

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Played 1000+ games

Well Written

Gained 10+ likes on a single review


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Played 250+ games


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Favorite Games

Chrono Trigger
Chrono Trigger
Radiant Silvergun
Radiant Silvergun
Mega Man X: Project Zero
Mega Man X: Project Zero
Gunstar Heroes
Gunstar Heroes
Ninja Gaiden Black
Ninja Gaiden Black


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Played in 2024


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Half-Century Challenge Series:

HCC #5 = Wander (1974)

Hey folks, it's been a while. Me and Mega are still doing this challenge at a steady pace, so be sure to check out Mega's newest review too!

Let's talk about release dates. Before the internet was used by the masses, before people truly gave a shit about video games as an artform, there was a trend that always bugged me; release dates. One need only look at the sheer number of games with release dates on IGDB of "December 31st" to figure out there's a widespread problem with retro games:

That's right, December 31st is the default date used when a game's release year is narrowed down. Wander (which has dual status as both a video game and an engine, much like MUGEN) suffers from this as well.

Why does that matter? Well, for one thing, sometimes we aren't even sure if release dates in this context for very old games refers to the time period where it was shared around a college campus or if it refers to a wide release. For another reason, well, I just about had a heart attack when I encountered the magic word "xyzzy" in Castle's text:

Why is this significant? Well, Wander came out in 1974. This is 4 years before Colossal Cave Adventure came out. One of the games in Wander, Castle, uses the magic word "xyzzy" which would mean that the original story of xyzzy being invented for the vastly more iconic Colossal Cave Adventure was a lie. The word xyzzy is one of the most famous keywords for programmers, even appearing as an easter egg in things like Monkey Island. To say this would be a history changer is putting it rather lightly.

But there's a problem with saying Wander had the word first.

According to this blog, Wander's compiled source files here were for a 1980s release, and Castle was built in Wander.

I have seen conflicting speculation on whether Castle predates Colossal Cave Adventure. According to this blog, Castle was the first game built in Wander during 1974 and the author of this blog even declares it to be the first adventure game ever created

Yet, I cannot find anything concrete. In fact, I found another blog which concluded the sub-game Castle came after Colossal Cave Adventure:

Yet, even if I had smoking gun evidence Colossal Cave Adventure (generally cited as the most important adventure game ever made) had actually ripped off Castle all this time, would it matter? Mega Man Legends never gets credit for having Z-targetting before Ocarina of Time; hell I feel like I live in a world where progenitors of their medium in general are neglected to keep up the narrative that Nintendo invents everything in the industry. Monster hunting games like Dragon Quest and Shin Megami Tensei are called Pokemon ripoffs with videos getting millions of views for this obvious lie that can be debunked with 5 seconds of Google searching. The narrative that Ocarina of Time was the first game with shit like a day/night cycle or generational storytelling is continuously pushed despite the existence of Dragon Quest 5 or Breath of Fire. Super Mario 64 is obviously the first 3D platformer if not game in existence. Jumping Flash, Alpha Waves, earlier 3D platformers... what are those?

I went into this game wanting to write a positive piece about a wacky old adventure game. However, as my copy of the game kept bugging out and refusing to let me progress... (you have to grab the rope to go down and grab the keys, but then the rope fades away unless possibly some strict order of events from this video is followed? )
I honestly don't know what to say. I am left alone with my thoughts of how video games are treated almost exclusively as toys rather than an artistic medium. Nobody would call Halloween 2 a ripoff of Friday the 13th the way Dragon Quest Monsters is called a ripoff of Pokemon. Nobody would cover an Elvis song, sell the cover, and then DMCA every pirated copy of OG Elvis music on the internet while also refusing to sell the original. Yet this is what what happens with say Squaresoft games when Square Enix sells quarter-assed remakes of games like Portopia or Front Mission while removing roms of the originals from the internet and refusing to resell those anyways, all while their fanboys happily cheer on this behaviour since we all must welcome the HD future. There is constant investigative work on the early history of anime to the point it is a big deal when 100 year old commercials are discovered but nobody except for me and about 3 other people have done a deep dive into the history of what is basically the first adventure game. Nobody would call Iron Man the first superhero movie ever made just because the MCU is the highest grossing film franchise, but this is what happens with Mario 64 allegedly being the first 3D platformer.

The truth is Wander is not really worth talking about as a game. In particular, its most noteworthy subgame Castle is a sloppily made mess where the text parser sucks to the point attempting to read the game's guide sometimes reads unrelated things. Hell, even 2 expert adventure gamers have failed to map out a walkthrough for it. It's so shoddily put together that I straightup just ignored the game over screen and kept moving after my so-called death, to say nothing of how vulgar the game can be:

However, if video games are to be treated as a serious artistic medium, this treatment has GOT to change. Roms should not be removed from the internet without any legal avenue to buy them with the justification that the shiny new remakes exist to minmax megacorp profits via safe business moves. We cannot brush aside games that were the first to pull off a particular concept like generational storytelling or monster taming or z-targetting simply because those games didn't have hundred million dollar marketing campaigns like tentpole Nintendo games. We cannot give this little of a shit about documenting the early history of video games when I see news stories blow up like this for the perhaps even nerdier medium of anime

Wander isn't an interesting game or engine, but it is truly representative of all my frustrations as somebody who appreciates games in an academic sense. It deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as things like Colossal Cave Adventure in my book, and I am truly baffled at the fact it was lost media for so many decades before anybody cared to find it. However, I suppose that it being found at all is progress enough I should be happy with.

I promise this will be my only negativity-laden review for the entire rest of the half-century challenge, guys.

Next time: Gun Fight (1975)

Behold, my 1500th video game! This special occasion warrants nothing less than a super special review. So, what did I think? Well first, some backstory.

This past year or 2, I've been obsessed with playing games that are considered foundational. Sometimes, I don't enjoy them but I'm still glad I played them for the historical value alone which has been the case for games such as Colossal Cave Adventure, Mystery House, or Portopia. Other times, I find some of my unexpected favourite games that are actually very fun such as Wizardry, Fantasy Zone, or... oh yeah, another game by Myst's developers called The Manhole!

When I played The Manhole and its 3D remake last year, I was very captivated! These are 2 games where there is no real objective but to take in the scenery. Just explore and find hilarious imagery while listening to wacky characters. No win condition, no lose condition, no timer, no stress. In a way, this is a really avant garde method of showing that video games are more than their title suggests. That being, they aren't just "games" played for the sake of winning but perhaps important pieces of art.

With how hyped up Myst has been over the years, I decided I would make it my 1500th game on Backloggd (Jesus I've been on this site for years) knowing that it would be something special and, well....

Look. I immensely respect what Myst is going for. I really love how inspired it is, and I am sure the pre-rendered graphics were mindblowing to 1993 audiences. It's neat how several of my beloved games such as Drowned God were blatantly inspired by it, and it's arguably the most important game in the last 30 or so years due to how it was the big boom for PC gaming the world needed.

Yet, I can't feel passionately about it the way I can with The Manhole or Wizardry or even the likes of Colossal Cave Adventure. It is hard for me to be captivated by Myst's legacy when many point and click/adventure games predate it and, in my opinion, have far better QOL, gameplay, and storytelling.

As far as point and click games from before 1993 go, I have a lot of favourites. Uninvited felt like a very kinetic and replayable game with a unique horror feel. Monkey Island 1-2 are still some of the most entertaining and hilarious games I've experienced, boasting incredible artstyles and early popularization of dynamic music. The Manhole, again, was one of the very first entertainment CD-roms and it's still rather fun. Alter Ego having barely any pictures and still being one of the most engaging, deeply written games I've experienced. Hell, when looking at niche Japanese games I'm impressed at how Cosmology of Kyoto, Otogirisou, or Ihatovo Monogatari managed to breathe new life into the game medium as a whole, displaying such artistry that even the likes of Roger Ebert were impressed.

All this is to say that I don't understand at all why Myst is often defended on the basis of "well it's a 30 year old game" especially when other point-and-clicks like Monkey Island before it are still popular today. Hell, Monkey Island is probably much more fun to revisit for the average player. Monkey Island doesn't receive memes like this, at least certainly not with any frequency

When trying to wrap my head around what made Myst so popular beyond the graphics, I looked at the development history behind the game and found this

Myst was meant to give players a bang for their buck, resulting in a design based around "brute force" real estate to explore. With no win or lose conditions, the player could feasibly spend weeks if not months on the game. And it doesn't stop there, there is what seems to be a deliberate lack of QOL.

I found myself constantly frustrated by Myst. The save feature restarts the player at the beginning of the area rather than saving their progress, contrary to other even older adventure games. Batteries near the dock drain rather fast and need to be constantly recharged. Activating the large tree elevator is an annoying process. The main character is too much of a moron to carry two pages at a time, so if the player wants to experience every FMV they are forced to go through the same area twice, some of which can be rather confusing to navigate. The sound puzzles where the player must match 5 different sound effects in a row with very large margin of error might as well just say "fuck the deaf and the tone deaf players" good lord. I personally felt the pace broken when 10 minutes into the game I was compelled to read 4 mini-novels in a row. And perhaps most importantly, I had trouble making out a single full sentence in the red and blue books due to the overloaded static noises in the cutscenes.

Are there things I appreciate about Myst? Sure! This is far from a game without merit. The minimalist presentation is rather beautiful, with the pre-rendered images and FMVs still holding their own against photorealistic graphics from far stronger hardware. The atmosphere can be rather immersive a lot of the time, with the sound effects being very convincing for every action in the game. I rec listening to this part of the Ars Technica documentary, since it explains things better than I could

It's truly a technical engineering feat. Also, after the player obtains the true ending, they are allowed to just explore the island. It really gives me the impression their earlier work on The Manhole helped shape some decisions in this game, and that's just lovely.

Well, that's Myst. It's a technically impressive game, but far from a fun one in my opinion. It was only while writing this review that, perhaps, it hit me.

Everybody has their own unique perspective and experiences that shapes them into the EPIC GAMER they are today. I saved Myst for a rainy day, subconsciously putting it on a pedestal in my head. Most of the people who told me how much they loved Myst mentioned it being a formative artistic experience for them. Could it be because I had the liberty of playing so many untranslated JP adventure games, more modern adventure games, and so forth before Myst, its impact was lost on me?

1500 games is a lot of fucking games. There is an alternate universe out there where I was fascinated by Myst and fell in love with it, rather than found it frustrating in my mid 20s. In fact, this is what one of the developers theorized; only maybe half of players even left the first island. Yet, so many young players who discovered the game left with quite an impression, that they played something which resonated with them FOR the unfamiliar mystique, rather than despite it

When I started typing this review, I wasn't sure if I was happy I played Myst. Yet now, I feel confident I am happy it was my 1500th game. It was not a waste of time, but a good reminder of how games are more than what I play. They are artistic statements, impressive feats of software development, and parts of our culture. The cynic in me can say Myst is a subpar adventure game that only had any success due to the photorealistic graphics. Yet, I'm more inclined to ask one thing:

Is there any game which better embodies the culture of early PC gaming and the appeal of pre-rendered graphics?

God, I fucking love video games.

The term demake gets thrown around kind of a lot nowadays to just mean "remake I don't like" but I always thought of it to mean remaking a game on weaker hardware. In this case, we have Ristar for the Sega Game Gear, which is far weaker than the Sega Genesis.

TBH? It's by far the most impressive deconversion of a game ever made, to the point I much prefer it to the Genesis version. All the levels I disliked such as the water levels are replaced with new more straightforward levels like a cool rainbow level (be sure to play the Japanese version of GG Ristar!) or bomb disposal level. I just enjoy not having to play with the swimming physics again.

The music and graphics are a bit of a downgrade of course, but GG Ristar punches far harder than its weight class would suggest. I could listen to its version of the OST for ages

Also, even the English version retains the story from the Japanese original which was changed in the English Genesis release. Very neat! But I think the coolest technical achievement is how they managed to replicate the ending effects on Game Gear!

It's the same Ristar you know and love, only with all the filler bits removed and replaced with mostly more interesting things imo. The new collectibles are really fun to casually walk through and I appreciate how many extra things there are to grab such as enemy shields and spears. Easy rec for fans of the original.