IT CAME FROM THE DESERT / Psygnosis / Amiga

Cinemaware's unique adventure game still feels inventive and fresh, if a bit clunky and dated in its mechanics. ICFTD is sort of a take on schlocky old 1950s B horror movies, you play as a geologist sent to a remote desert shithole town in New Mexico to research volcanic rocks, only to have a meteor impact nearby just after arriving. It doesn't take long before you notice giant ants roaming about, and at this point you have a time limit of about 2 weeks in-game to collect evidence of them, find their lair, and convince the local mayor to get the military involved to stop them before they swarm and destroy the town.

Time passes in an approximation of real-time; each second of real-world time equates to a minute in the game world, and you'll burn time automatically travelling between destinations (more the farther you have to travel.) Most of your time is spent in investigation, and the citizens of Lizard Breath will move around on their own schedules, being at different locations at different times, or sometimes having scripted events at certain locations depending on choices you've made previously. It's a decent little "virtual theater" type of engine, especially for the late 80s.



There's only two areas where the game has significant issues. One is combat. You don't have to engage in much of it, but when you do, it's finicky and kind of annoying. This is leavened somewhat by the fact that you can't die, and the only "penalty" for combat is being forced to play the rather amusing "hospital escape" mini-game. The only absolute failure state in the game is if you let it reach day 15 without stopping the ants. The other issue is the save system; the game uses something similar to "snap saves" on modern handhelds, where you're forced to quit whenever you save. I guess it adds some tension, and it's leavened by the fact that the entire game only takes about an hour to complete, it's not difficult to play your way through it in one sitting, but there's multiple routes of possible investigation that add a little variety each time.

Combat also introduces a couple of huge plot holes - why a geologist is running around with a pistol and seemingly limitless supply of grenades for starters, but you can also kill a small squad of ants with that arsenal about five minutes into the game. I'd understand if no one wanted to go out to the middle of nowhere to look at a carcass based on your wild stories, but this battle scatters ant carcasses all over some guy's farm. You'd think word would get out, but you still have to tediously gather evidence (cutting off body parts from the giant ant also isn't enough to convince the local mayor all by itself.)

If you can suspend your disbelief and put up with a few mechanics that have really aged badly, however, this is one of the more atmospheric, interesting and unique adventure games ever made.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video

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