Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Game 64: Conquests of the Longbow: The Legend of Robin Hood – Introduction (1991)

Written by Alex


Maid Marian. Little John. Friar Tuck. The wicked Sheriff of Nottingham. King Richard the Lionheart. The Merry Men. Even in the 21st century, we all know the characters and the stories. And of course, there’s the man himself: Robin Hood, the legendary outlaw, swordsman, archer, and ladies’ man. He wields a pretty mean quarterstaff, too, and really loves the color green.

Robin Hood memorial in Nottingham. Photo by Olaf1541. He looks kind of like Link, doesn’t he?


Something about these stories has fired our imaginations through the ages, through folktales, ballads, books, movies, and computer games. Much as she did with the Arthurian legends in Conquests of Camelot, designer Christy Marx and her crack team of game developers created a loving pastiche of Robin Hood legends in Conquests of the Longbow: The Legend of Robin Hood. I am qualified to say “loving” because I have played this game before, albeit fifteen or so years ago. While I never finished it due to my inability to solve an unfortunate manual-based puzzle, I enjoyed the game quite a bit. Just so you know, I had the manual, but I think I was facing a timing issue, as these were the pre-DOSBox days. I am very much looking forward to firing this game up again, and I remember it being very well-written, interesting, and most importantly, fun. After Leisure Suit Larry 5 and Police Quest III, I’m in the mood for a good, old-fashioned, classic Sierra adventure game. I must also mention that Robin Hood has appeared in other video games, such as Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves for the Nintendo Entertainment System, based on the 1991 Kevin Costner film of the same name. And for Spoony’s hilarious, NSFW review of that game, click here.

The Man, The Myth, The Legend . . .

References to Robin Hood first appear in the late 14th century, but weren’t written down until the 1500s. May Day celebrations figured into the growth of the Robin Hood legend, as the character was portrayed in plays and games. As times changed, so too did the nature of the stories: While firmly a yeoman—that is, a commoner—Robin Hood fought against governmental injustice during the feudal era, while in more peaceful times he became a swashbuckler with a heart of gold. In his earliest incarnations, however, he was imbued with the dominant, idealized attributes of the day, like loyalty, piousness, and generosity, and was decidedly not a rebel or an outlaw. Characters were latter added, some like Maid Marian and Friar Tuck much later, though Little John, Much the Miller’s Son and Will Scarlett seem to be Robin’s oldest companions.

(Digression: I hate it when the news media here in the United States tries to compare politicians to Robin Hood. Newsflash: In the Robin Hood legends, he steals from tax collectors. So let’s cut out the ridiculous stuff like this. Also, Monty Python’s Robin Hood send-up “Dennis Moore” is awesome and should be watched immediately. Digression over).

Regardless, no one is sure about his true origins, or if he was based on an actual person. As with the legends of King Arthur, the truth about Robin Hood will forever be a mystery. This perhaps explains why the character is so popular: Successive generations of storytellers have been able to put their own spin on him while retaining the universal themes that have helped the stories retain their relevance for nearly a millennium. That, or the tights.

“Ladies . . .”

Whatever the reason, whether he is portrayed by Douglas Fairbanks, Errol Flynn, Sean Connery, Kevin Costner, or Russell Crowe, spoofed by Cary Elwes in Mel Brooks’s Robin Hood: Men in Tights, or even played by the Loony Toons crew or an anthropomorphic fox in the excellent 1973 Disney cartoon, Robin Hood lives on. But really, it’s the tights.

He’s got, you know, an armadillo in his trousers.

The Woman Who Made It Happen: Christy Marx


I have only played one other game by Christy Marx, the aforementioned Conquests of Camelot (with art by her then-husband Peter Ledger, who tragically died in a car accident in 1994), but I have to say that she gets it when it comes to adventure games. The history is integrated in a fun way that retains enough accuracy without being afraid to deviate and add new twists. The gameplay is varied with different types of inventory and manual-based puzzles, arcade sequences, and games-within-the-game that make you use your noodle without ever being too obtuse. And best of all, they are light on the classic Sierra Walking Dead Scenarios ™ that we all seem to know and love. Plus, the two Conquest games are wrapped in a package of excellent art, evocative music, and great writing that really make the player want to explore the legends more. Let’s just give the game a 100 out of 100 and be done with it.

Regarding Ms. Marx herself, she’s had a varied and interesting career in comics, games, television, photography, and animation. For instance, did you know that she created the cartoon Jem?! Or writes comic books? Has written episodes of TV shows like Babylon 5? In other words, she has lived the life that most of us pop culture geeks dream of.

Some Specs

Conquests of the Longbow, released in 1991, uses Sierra’s SCI1 interface and features 256-color VGA graphics with the point-and-click interface first used by the company in King’s Quest V. From what I remember, excellent graphics and a point-and-click interface are all that Longbow shares with the aforementioned game. If I have to defeat the Sheriff of Nottingham with a pie to the face, heads will roll. I’m not sure whose, but roll they shall!

“Roll . . . they shall?”

Predictions

You all know my final score prediction (100), so I’d better not see anybody guess that. Numbers 0-99 are fair game, though, so don’t ever let it be said that I’m not generous. Want to know who else is generous?

“This guy.”

Yep, Robin Bro and his “little buddy” will be our guide through our adventures in Sherwood Forest. You have been warned.

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 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.

31 comments:

  1. Yeah, see, that's why the tunic is supposed to be longer, so it covers the crotch, like in the box art for the game at the beginning of the post.

    I'll guess 60 for the score.

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  2. Oh, this will be another great read, certainly one of the top 5 Sierra adventures when considered from a pure game mechanics / fairness point of view.

    No score predictions, but I'll cheer quietly from the upper circle. (As in theaters.)

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  3. Actually played this one, so finally, a game I know about. I'm gonna guess 65.

    Also, happy new year and holidays to everybody. And as a new year day tradition TV3 in Sweden sends the Ivanhoe special from the 80's with Sam Neill, John Rhys-Davies and others. And keeping with the theme, Robin Hood has a minor roll assisting Ivanhoe and the black knight in rescuing the saxons from the normans.

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    1. And Robin Hood has a small part in "Defender of the Crown" from Cinemaware, as do Ivanhoe and Company;)

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  4. I've heard good things about this one, but never played it. 63.

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  5. This game is really one of the gems. I especially like that there are many alternative ways through the game - you can be a coward and get your Merry Men killed and still get to the end (of course, the ending is then far from the best possible, but that's just to be expected). I'll be very optimistic and guess 75.

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  6. A nice round 70 from me, since I'm sure it has a lot going for it and seems fondly remembered.

    I've not played it myself, but might give it a try if I've got some spare time.

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  7. Been waiting for this one as I never played it, and I happen to have some free time to play along! Yay, it's been a while! I've heard mixed reports so I'll go with a score of 56.

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  8. 61.

    I've only heard of Jem from Robot Chicken but good work Christy for creating content for multiple types of media!

    I noticed on her wikipedia page that she also wrote for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which I did watch.

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  9. And why is Spider-Man's nemesis, the Green Goblin, on the cover of a Robin Hood game?

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    1. He was annoyed that he wasn't put in the second Questprobe game and this was the best he could do.

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    2. There's also Ming the Merciless from Flash Gordon, so perhaps this will be Robin Hood vs. the Ultimate Comic Book Villains.

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    3. Looks like Alex has himself an impromptu caption contest! Can anyone spot any other recognisable faces?

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    4. Well, that guy in the middle looks an awful lot like Oliver Queen. Can't imagine why.

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    5. The bottom left guy kinda reminds me of the Important Looking Pirates from Monkey Island.

      67? It's a game I'd like to play along with if I manage to find the time, but I fully anticipate not being able to find it.

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    6. I originally thought the middle guy looked like a young Richard Garriott, but then I looked up pictures of a young Richard Garriott and realised I was wrong.

      I also thought the bottom left guy looked like an angry Peter Jackson

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    7. It's funny. I was THIS CLOSE to putting a caption under the picture with whom I thought these people looked like, but didn't because it was the first picture of the post. Great minds, people.

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    8. Now I spotted another one from Flash Gordon! The one on the middle left is clearly Prince Vultan, as played by Brian Blessed:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5HfDIwNI8w

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  10. I only knew of the game's existence so I will go with a blind 57.

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  11. I only knew of the game's existence so I will go with a blind 57.

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  12. Conquests of Camelot has a rating of 52, I think this one will surpass it, so my guess will be 62.

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  13. This is one of the few Sierra adventures I never played, so... I guess... maybe... 64'ish...? Ok, 64 it is.

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  14. 72

    Also the version available from Christy Marx's website is a buggy outdated beta, according to a playthrough thread at Adventuregamers. So acquire it elsewhere, people.

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  15. 69 for me, I don't know anything about the game so just a guess.

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  16. I'll guess 67.

    I definitely agree that that's Brian Blessed on the cover (mid-left). And Wonder Woman above him.

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  17. I'll go with 71 for this Showcase Showdown, Bob!

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  18. So why did this post get a popularity boost all of a sudden? Same with Mystery House.

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    1. I have no idea. I am most perplexed about the Adventure Quest getting the top position, considering it is a rather obscure game.

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  19. Appreciate the recommendation. Will try it out.

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