Game Art Spotlight: LucasArts Adventure Games
Once upon a time back in the days before console gaming had taken off, PC gaming was king, and in the 80s, business was booming. “Booming” of course meant a lot less back then than today’s multi-million dollar game extravaganzas, and lots of game companies were small enough that you could practically call them mom and pop software developers. Granted, you might not think a group started by Hollywood powerhouse Lucasfilm would qualify as small, but the amount of creativity, humor, character and outright love that LucasArts’ handful of artists and programmers put into their adventure games in the late 80s and early 90s is almost impossible to find anywhere else except the occasional indie games.
And while LucasArts made a variety of games in different genres (platformers, sims and, obviously, a whole heck of a lot of Star Wars), it’s their point-and-click graphic adventure games that stand out as truly unique works of art. Wonderful soundtracks with top-notch voicework mixed together with brilliant art and design, smart humor and great storytelling just made these games magical. Even their earlier, more technically constrained franchises were amazingly enjoyable.
Add to that repertoire later projects like the more recent Lego Batman/Star Wars/Indiana Jones series, as well as my favorite Halloween game of all time, Zombies Ate My Neighbors, and you have one of my most beloved game companies ever.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis
Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders
The Secret of Monkey Island
Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge
The Curse of Monkey Island
Sam & Max: Hit the Road
Day of the Tentacle (Maniac Mansion 2)
As you can see, many of these games had different versions with different graphics, depending on what platform they were released to (the image filenames have their platforms if you’re curious). After these came 3D entries into the Adventure genre, including Escape from Monkey Island and Grim Fandango, along with many heartbreaking game cancellations.
In addition to the point and click adventure games, LucasArts made wonderful games for SNES/Genesis and Saturn/Playstation. Below, the non-Star Wars list:
Zombies Ate My Neighbors: SNES/Genesis
Ghoul Patrol: SNES
Big Sky Trooper: SNES
Metal Warriors: SNES
Herc’s Adventures: Saturn/PSX
Today, although there have been a few re-releases of Monkey Island games, most of the LucasArts adventure games can only be played on DOS emulators, requiring a good set of technical skills just to set up. And then there’s the issue of actually finding the games themselves. But trust me on this, it is entirely worth every ounce of work if you do pursue them. If you have one drop of honest gamer blood in you, do yourself a favor and look these games up. Although relics of a bygone era, they’ll be experiences you will not soon forget.
More on the adventure games:
The whole lineup of LucasArts games
I just booted up a copy of Space Quest 4. The art is really unique. Though you wouldn’t think that right away because it’s sort of like classic comic book art. It’s one of my biggest inspirations. The earlier Space Quest games have a more familiar feel (sort of like advanced Atari graphics) and there is something interesting about how western artists made games differently than Japanese artists. Though I love both. I think western artists like to keep the body ratios more realistic (thus things can look clumsy but still fun) and Japanese artists tend to embrace the pixels in a way that puts strong emphasis on the important body/face parts.
To be fair, there’s ScummVM which isn’t an emulator and is pretty easy to use (except maybe savefile allocation, but you get used to it pretty quickly).