Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Game 88: Lure of the Temptress (1992) – Introduction

by Alex



Lure of the Temptress
, the debut game from British developer Revolution Software—founded in 1990 and still making games—promises to be an interesting piece of adventure gaming history. If Revolution Software sounds familiar to you, that’s because these fine chaps (that’s what they like to be called in England, I’ve heard) went on to create the acclaimed Beneath a Steel Sky, as well as the Broken Sword series. Having played none of these games, I am very excited to embark upon something for The Adventure Gamer that is not a Police Quest game, is not a Leisure Suit Larry game, and is not a Robin Hood game.

Written by Dave Cummins, designed and programmed by Tony Warriner and David Sykes, produced by Dan Marchant, and directed by Charles Cecil, Lure of the Temptress is a point-and-click, inventory-puzzle-based adventure game of the kind familiar to fans of games by Lucasarts and Sierra. It was very well-received upon release and is still hailed as a classic worth playing, though it looks like not all contemporary reviews have been quite so kind.

The game features Revolution’s Virtual Theater engine, used in the aforementioned Beneath a Steel Sky and Broken Sword games, at least the first two, in which NPCs follow their own schedules independent of the player. Think of it like a proto-Radiant AI, seen in games by Bethesda like recent entries in the Elder Scrolls and Fallout series, but with fewer arrows in the knee.



I’m looking forward to this one. With the exception of Robin Hood: The Touchstones of Rhiannon, Lure of the Temptress will be only my second non-Sierra game for the site. And after playing through the Police Quest I remake, which I had played before, but many moons ago, I’m going into Lure of the Temptress blind, which I’m sure will make for some exciting—and frustrating—playing . . . and reading.

What better place to start, then, than with the game manual?

I take it back: What better place to start, then, than with the box art? I mean, look at that! Damn, now that’s a cover that screams “Play me!” The alluring enchantress, those morose red demons, those heads on pikes (including a jester’s), all done in a classic comic book art style. It just tickles me right in the aesthetic zone (you don’t want to know where that is). I don’t know who’s responsible for this, but damned if they didn’t do a fine job.

Okay, back to the manual. It’s written from the perspective of some dude named Ratpouch, a loutish sort who explains the game, its interface, and the plot to you, the reader. We’ll get into the interface in the first gameplay post, but there’s no reason we can’t get into a rundown of the plot right now.


Mr. Ratpouch, ladies and gentlemen.

There’s a king, there’s a town called Turnvale in some unruly province that’s revolting against said king, and the revolt is spearheaded by an apprentice sorceress named Selena. How an apprentice sorceress is able to pull this off makes me think maybe she should be admitted to the ranks of the full-fledged sorceresses, but I’m no expert on magical rankings so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

Still, the king takes Selena seriously enough to visit Turnvale himself with a whole bunch of horsemen, including Diermot, the player character, in tow. The king doesn’t meet a regular bunch of rag-tag resistance fighters, but “an army of grotesque creatures, the likes of which have never been seen before” which are “hellish mercenary monsters known as the Skorl.”

The battle against the Skorl is apparently a “massacre,” in which the king’s horsemen are destroyed . . . and so is the king! Diermot, however, falls off of his horse and bangs his head—our hero, ladies and gentlemen!—waking up in a prison cell, where the game begins.

It’s important to note that, based on the tone of the manual, I don’t expect this game to take itself too seriously, despite the relatively straight nature of the plot. In actuality, this is intentional, as described by Charles Cecil in a 2012 interview with Edge:

“While I enjoyed Sierra games, I felt that there had to be more than yet again saving King Graham of Daventry from a – let’s be frank – fairly unlikely series of events. It was all a little bit twee. So we came up with the idea of writing an adventure game that didn’t take itself too seriously, but did have a serious story – something in-between Lucasarts and Sierra . . . Humor’s a very clever way of creating rhythm, rather than a monotone gameplay pace which can soon grate . . . “
So there you go: The first game by a top-tier adventure game studio responsible for many beloved classics in the genre, featuring an all new game engine with an intriguing NPC AI hitherto unknown in the genre that aims to fall in that sweet spot between Sierra and Lucasarts. Will it pull off that difficult balance of a serious story with funny bits, exemplified so masterfully in the Quest for Glory series? Or will Lure of the Temptress fall flat, failing to appropriately nail those contrasting tones resulting in a campy, cringe-worthy experience?

STAY TUNED TO FIND OUT!

I’ll be playing the DOS version on DOSBox, though the game was also released for the Amiga. And maybe I should take this as an omen of things to come, but according to MobyGames, there is a game-breaking bug that would ensure an unbeatable experience . . . that is, “unbeatable” in the literal sense of the term:’

There is a bug in the game which prevents you from completing it. To fix this, you have to choose the 'Restart Game' option, as soon as the game begins. If you don't do this, then at least one vital item (the tinderbox) will not appear.

Oh boy. I’d really appreciate it if anyone with knowledge of other bugs in this game could share them with me in the comments section below, before I really embark on my journey through the Skorl-infested town of Turnvale.

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.

45 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. That's as good a reason as any for anything that we do around here on TAG!

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  2. Played this several months ago and disliked the gameplay and story. 45.

    I encountered the bug in question (forcing me to replay a significant chunk of the game) and I read somewhere that it was a case of copy protection. Does the manual tell you to restart immediately?

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    Replies
    1. @Laukku I didn't see that in the manual--I saw it on MobyGames. The manual DOES indicate that there is copy protection, but it didn't look like restarting the game was it.

      I can't wait...

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  3. Setting up the sound for this game is somewhat tricky. There is seemingly no setup file; instead the game tries to automatically detect which sound hardware you have. You most likely want AdLib/SoundBlaster music. For that you must disable MIDI by setting mpu401 to none in DOSBox - either by modifying the variable in dosbox.conf or by typing "mpu401 none" just before starting the game. Otherwise the game will detect that you have a MIDI device, assume it is a Roland device and play MT-32 MIDI data which will sound incorrect on a General MIDI device.

    With no MPU-401 in sight, the game will instead detect DOSBox's emulated SoundBlaster card and play historically accurate audio.

    Or, if you prefer Roland music and know what you're doing, make sure you use a CM variant (CM-32L, CM-64, CM-500, LAPC-I) as the game makes use of their extra sound effects that are not in a regular MT-32. Otherwise you get piano footsteps. See this Wikipedia page.

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  4. Of all the adventure games I've played, I've given four of them a 1 out of 10. Lure of the Temptress is one of them.

    I can't remember why I hated it, and it's possible I just played it at the wrong time or something. It's also possible I ran into the bug you mentioned and that's why I disliked it so much. I did enjoy Revolution's other games.

    I'll assume I hated it for a reason, so I'm predicting low... 31

    And if anyone wants to play along, it's free on GOG. https://www.gog.com/game/lure_of_the_temptress

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. >I can't remember why I hated it

      95% of the game is tbvat guebhtu gur cynlnoyr nern bire naq bire ntnva, frnepuvat sbe gur arkg crefba gb vagrenpg jvgu. Naq qhr gb Iveghny Gurnger lbh arire xabj jurer gurl ner. Vg'f abjurer arne nf onq nf Pehvfr sbe n Pbecfr ohg fgvyy irel grqvbhf.

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    2. @TBD You're not making me feel good about this game, guys.

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    3. Yeah, Laukku. That seems likely a large part of it. But I expect there's more to it, seeing as I give '1's so rarely.

      I'm definitely looking forward to reading about it.

      Good luck, Alex. Here's hoping you like it more than me, or at least like writing about your bad experiences if you join our cadre of hate.

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    4. The game isn't terrible, more like an extreme case of "meh". Firmly below average, comparable to Future Wars (bland story and shaky game design), but clearly above the likes of Les Manley or Cruise for a Corpse.

      Delete
    5. @TBD Thanks! I'm trying to keep an open mind here. As such, all will be revealed in the first play post . . . but my guard is still slightly up. I can't help it.

      @Laukku "Meh" can sometimes be hard to write about . . . there are only so many synonyms for "beige."

      Delete
  5. I tried it many years ago, didn't like it, never finished it. I don't think I got very far at all before giving up.

    Anyway, I'll guess about 43.

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    Replies
    1. Oh boy. That sure fills me with confidence...right when I was so looking forward to this.

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  6. I never played this but friends of mine had it and rated it highly, but complained of it's difficulty if I recall correctly. I'd go high 50s but I'm going to have to assume you'll rate it lower because Jim Walls isn't involved in it in any way... :D 55 for me.

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    Replies
    1. You know Kus, I almost refused to play this game given the lack of Officer Walls...that's like an automatic -20 points handicap right there.

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  7. Been on my to play list for 25 years I guess. This is a 36

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oof. Wow. This game is not, ah, highly regarded around here.

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    2. No, wait. Just guessing from all the comments, my own limited knowledge of it (seeing screenshots), and the fact that it has a horrible bug which makes an item not spawn for some reason. Maybe it's not that bad, we'll see

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    3. I understand. I too hope it ultimately turns out to be an enjoyable experience.

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  8. As for the demons on the cover. They seem to tell a story of their own.

    My interpretation is that one of them is posing for Playboy while the other one is getting bored because his dad is late picking him up from soccer training.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Or maybe he's surly because he DIDN'T get picked to pose for Playboy.

      Or would it be Playgirl?

      Playdemon?

      ...

      My head hurts.

      Delete
  9. I am curious why DOSBox and not SCUMMVM?

    Also worth noting: Charles Cecil did some work on text adventure games using the Scott Adams engine circa 1982. So while this is near the beginning of his adventure work that anyone cares about, his actual beginning was a dozen years earlier.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We've had a discussion on Dosbox over ScummVM before and I think the unofficial conclusion was that Dosbox gives a more accurate depiction of the game at the time while ScummVM often has improvements and conveniences or something that's not emulated in the same way that could alter the perception of the player.

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    2. One of the most extreme cases was Hugo's House of Horrors. There were also some weird bugs in Loom and Colonel's Bequest.

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    3. @Rowan Cool! Thanks for the history!

      And I just prefer DOSBox myself. The times I've used SCUMMVM, I haven't liked the interface. and the changes made.

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  10. I started playing this game a couple of years ago, but I gave up pretty much at once since I couldn't make heads or tails of the interface, more or less preventing me to talk to the first person you met in the game.

    And since I didn't get more than 3-5 rooms the dice says... 94. I would threw out the dice for being so incorrect, but since it is a digital one on my phone I rather not.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe you can just roll your phone or something?

      I dunno. The interface isn't *bad,* just . . . different. And "different" in the way that us people from New Hampshire mean when we say that something is "different."

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  11. I'm also in the tried-it-a-long-time-ago-but-never-got-very-far-before-giving-up camp, so it'll be interesting to see how you fare. I'm gonna go with a slightly unenthusiastic guess of 40.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cool! I sure hope I can get far myself...

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  12. I played this on release and loved it. I have no idea how well it stands up, but I'm surprised to see so much negativity in the comments. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I did 25 years ago Alex.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Tricky!

      Also: what's up?!

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    2. Oh I'm always busy with various little projects. I have a monthly music podcast with my brother that takes up a lot of my time. On the gaming front, I'm working on an Amiga idea, but it will be a while before I'm ready to press go.

      I've also got into the habit of playing through games that are around 10 years behind the current year. I find that this saves a heap of cash (each game costs under $5 instead of over $50), and I can play them all with all graphics turned up full with my half-decent PC. I guess doing The Adventure Gamer for so many years released me from the need to play the latest and greatest games when they're full price. I'm much more patient.

      I've recently played through The Witcher, Mass Effect, Stalker, Dead Space, BioShock, Crysis, Portal and Assassin's Creed. Now I'm playing Fallout 3. Good times! :)

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    3. https://www.reddit.com/r/patientgamers/

      You still planning to do the occasional game for the blog, as implied here?

      Delete
  13. Replies
    1. Just a good a number as any other.

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  14. 52 because... I have no idea why!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 52 is like saying, "I want to come right down the middle . . . but I want to hedge my bets a bit."

      Good choice. 3 CAPs for forethought (even if I'm just imagining it).

      Delete
  15. Replies
    1. @Joseph

      I'd make a Douglas Adams joke, but that's pretty played out.

      Delete
  16. The average of all the guesses so far (including the ludicrously optimistic dice) is 47.9, so I'll guess 48!

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  17. Hi, I´m guessing 54, an atmospheric fantasy adventure, which I quite liked.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @Lupus

      Atmospheric is a good word for it.

      Delete