The Vault №96
Whether you're rolling d20s, soloing a paragon Ancient Wyrm, or reminding Kefka just who's boss, you can't deny it; fantasy is just awesome. But it doesn't all have to be fair elven maidens, forth-with and prithee, or even involve a THACO table. After all, it may be easy to forget, but there are a lot of games out there that can let you get your fantasy fix and aren't RPGs. Shhh, we're a little scared too, but just take our hand and we'll crack open the Vault together this week for a batch of our favourite fantastical journeys.
- How to Raise a Dragon - You should already know Gregory Weir and his talent for weaving unusual narratives into even more unusual gameplay, but this simple adventure game managed to plug deep into the squealing twelve year old girl who has always wanted to be a dragon that lives inside all of us. (Yes, even you, Dudely Reader.) In this story that takes you from hatchling to mighty beast, the choices you make determine everything from what type of dragon you are, to whether you're feared or reviled, and even the ultimate outcome of the inevitable confrontation. But what sets this one apart is that the choices aren't simple "do you want to eat the orphanage Y/N" decisions, but rather circumstances that come about because of the way you play and treat the world around you. It's short, but smart, and a great way of allowing the player to have a much more honest hand in their character's destiny than a karma system.
- Knightfall - Take a puzzle and an RPG, then smoosh them together while making kissy noises, and you'll eventually get something like this gorgeous and clever little hybrid from Megadev. You play as a knight with a mighty drill lance in a world where the devil (yes, really) has stolen your princess and you must smash your way through a series of unique match-3 levels where you flip and rotate the board to bust through enemies and other hazards to collect treasure and do battle. It isn't quite as streamlined as it could be, with the lack of an in-game tutorial being a bit of a disappointment, but if you have the patience to get the hang of it, Knightfall is a vibrant and decidedly addictive little gem that will be hard for some players to put down.
- Barbarian Onslaught: The Secret of Steel - Turns out it's entirely possible to make mass murder and cartoon levels of violence adorable. Just check out this over-the-top hack-and-slash action game and prepare to squeal in macabre delight as your enemy's head and torso go pinwheeling in entirely different directions. Control one lone barbarian hero in a bloody, sidescrolling massacre against hordes of enemies, bosses, and barrels packed with meat. While it's true that the morbid spectacle of it all is a big factor in Barbarian Onslaught's appeal, the snappy, easy-to-grasp action and breakneck pace makes it the perfect choice for a little bit of midday mayhem.
- php Zork - While this incarnation of the cult classic interactive fiction title has a few dings and scratches from a somewhat unwieldy implementation, it's hard to deny that this '70s text adventure is iconic for a reason. You begin west of a house with little instruction, but a bit of poking around will soon reveal that the house is hiding some very big secrets... like treasure, danger, traps, and grues. If you've never experienced Zork before but are willing to put your thinking cap on, Zork is still well worth experiencing for a bit of challenging gaming history. Just remember not to go into the dark.
While we welcome any comments about this weekly feature here, we do ask that if you need any help with the individual games, please post your questions on that game's review page. Well, what are you waiting for? Get out there and rediscover some awesome!