Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Game 79 : Bargon Attack - Introduction (1992)

Written by Alfred n the Fettuc

[Admin's note: You were probably all expecting an Eternam playpost by now. Unfortunately, Aperama works in a field where approaching Christmas means more work (and I am not implying that Santa's factories are actually located in Australia, although if I were him, I'd certainly consider moving Down Under from the cold North). So as not to make a large gap with only one official game and occasional Missed Classics going on, we've decided instead to continue for a while with another French game, Bargon Attack, this time played and reviewed by a real Frenchman! Aperama will return to the joys of Eternam in the future, when holiday season will be over. Now, I'll give the stage back to Alfred!]

My youth as a French adventure gamer who couldn't speak English was strictly limited to a few games. I couldn't understand all the Sierra Classics that were never translated and I wouldn't discover the Lucasarts masterpieces until Day of the Tentacle a few years later. In consequence, my first forays into the adventure genre was with Delphine Software Games (Future Wars, Operation Stealth...) and Coktel Vision. I have a lot of great memories of Inca, Ween and Lost in Time, and I've spent a fair amount of time playing Bargon Attack as 11-year old me. That’s why I’m really pleased to be able to play it again (and hopefully complete it, which I was unable to do at the time) as my first article on the blog. Let’s try and save French video gaming reputation!


French video gaming attack

Coktel Vision was a French company created in 1985 and was mainly specialized in edutainment software. Its most famous product (at least in France, don't know if it was known abroad) was the ADI series featuring Adi the alien, which went on to star in a morning cartoon and even spawned a full TV cable channel, Adibou TV in 2005, which was discontinued since. Adi was created among others by Muriel Tramis, of Emmanuelle "fame".


ADI : still seems better than the Teletubbies…

Coktel Vision created a few adventure games in the 90's, their most well-known work probably being the Gobliiins trilogy (which we'll come to soon) and Woodruff and the Shnibble (which we'll come to around 2036). The “erotic” trilogy from Muriel Tramis (Emmanuelle, Geisha, Fascination) is also among their creations, as well as the weird adventure/action hybrid Inca (1992) and its follow-up, and the quite good Ween : The Prophecy (1993) and Lost in Time (1993). Their last big adventure game was the ill-fated full-motion video Urban Runner in 1996. The company had been bought by Sierra in 1992 and disappeared in the same mess that crushed all the subsidiary companies of Sierra in the 2000's.

Bargon Attack is primarily an adaptation from a comic book published between 1989 and 1990 in a French computer magazine named Micro News. The creators of the comics went on to program their own video game and were then published by said Coktel Vision. The comics and the game have their very own 80’s style, mixing their own Parisian environment with classic science-fiction.


Scooter! Computers! Aliens! Phasers!

I'm not sure Bargon Attack will be the game saving the French adventure gaming reputation (the best PISSED rating of a French game that is not a Missed Classic being 44 for Operation Stealth / The Stealth Affair), but I certainly hope it will beat Emmanuelle's abysmal (and deserved) rating. What I remember mainly for this game is its weirdness and the sound effects, mainly a full-voiced introduction which was in my memory horribly acted and barely audible but still mind-blowing for me in 1992. And the stepping sounds. Oh my goodness, the stepping sounds. I'll see while replaying the game if they are as annoying as I remember but it seems to me that the game has very little sound except a continuous sound of the hero footsteps which resembles sounds like a shredder trying to chew gravel.


CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCH

I think it's a weird game. From what I remember, every screen is separated and you have to figure out a way to exit to the next screen, not unlike Gobliiins. However, it's not always clear what to do to make progress. In this screenshot over here, which is the first screen, you'll have to get a coin of some kind to put in the guy's money box. If you don't do that, you'll be unable to ride the escalator and will be ejected from it should you try. Nothing seem to tell you any clues that you're supposed to do that and you stumble upon the solution by exhausting every possibilities, which is pretty remote from good game design. Then again, it's from my recollections of this game so I might be wrong. We'll see that together in my first post. I also remember an arcade game with a giant crab I couldn't pass so I never finished the game…


First intro screen. Weird to offer a demo where you see a little
part of the game playing itself. Doesn't fit an adventure game.

So let's boot up this new shining example of French game design and see what it's worth. Once I selected "game", the intro film starts. The graphics are pretty good for the time, mixing graphics and digitized images, and the fully voiced intro (while difficult to understand) is certainly impressive. A video game, Bargon Attack, is apparently enjoying a massive success but seems to be a scheme from aliens to take control of Earth. (According to the narrator, they should have realized that by the fact the company releasing it is called "Invaders". Yeah, pretty smooth, guys...) There is also a weird cult with star-shaped masks which seems to be related to that (albeit unclear how) and an exposition in Beaubourg about a painter named Sark, also wearing a mask and seemingly completely crazy. Then an alien appears in the computer and shoots you... And the guys in the mask give you another chance... aaaand you're dropped in the game. Weird.


Aaaah, Paris...


You play the part of a computer game playing geek… Pretty immersive...


Is that me or does he look like a young Ed Norton?


A lot of details into this bedroom, even if I spent quite some time
realizing that the troll-faced alien on the left is a crushed can.


Wow… pretty meta considering I’m playing on
a computer emulating a computer emulating a computer...


Ok… did I lose already?

So here we are, now it's time to stop the alien menace and walk my apparently metal-plated boots all over the Paris streets... See you next post to see how this weird little game holds on today.

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There's a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's an opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that I won't be able to solve a puzzle without putting in an official Request for Assistance: remember to use ROT13 for betting. If you get it right, you will be rewarded with 50 CAPs in return. It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw.

13 comments:

  1. I'll guess 48. Might be a bit better than Operation Stealth.

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  2. Wait, they made Urban Runner? I've actually played that game!

    "My youth as a French adventure gamer who couldn't speak English was strictly limited to a few games."

    And to think, as a kid I had the King's Quest-collection (in english) with a french manual and I understood none of it. And the dice says... 15! I think my luck has run out.

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    1. Urban Runner was probably the last nail in the coffin of Coktel Vision (and probably one of the many nails in the coffin of the Full-motion videos subgenre) : huge budget, a lot of actors, a lot of publicity, and it bombed terribly on release because of technical requirements and poor reviews. I remember the french dubbing for this game was done by the actor who usually dubs Bruce Willis so at least in french, it was pretty cool...

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    2. I would add incomprehensible to the list. I was glad just passing the first part of the game under constant time stress. For a puzzle game to constantly forcing you forward isn't the best way if you don't make it obvious what you can do or interact with.

      But what was the original languish since I thought it was french from the start?

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    3. It's the narrator's voice from what I remember. And as with all the french games past the 90's, it's done with english as a first language in order to sell it internationally. And the lead actor is Brandon Massey, who was also the lead in Police Quest IV, with different voices both games.

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  3. It certainly looks good, so I'm going to assume a reasonable score of 53. Not enough to trouble the leaderboard, but good enough.

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  4. I guess the game will fall to same category as Delphine Software games - beautiful, but not very fun to play. Let's say 40.

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  5. I'll guess 41.

    That ADI fellow makes me think of Earthworm Jim.

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  6. I´m guessing 37, I never even heard of the game before

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  7. Too late to guess for the prize, but I'm thinking low 30s. Sorry, France, I still don't trust you.

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