Long before the arrival of PlayStation and Nintendo (and much before it became cool to be a geek), there was a company called On-Line Systems. Established in the late 1970s by the husband-wife duo Ken and Roberta Williams, it soon became the epochal Sierra On-Line.
As it turned out, the company produced dozens of games during the 80s and 90s — considered by some to be the golden age of computer gaming — which remain popular to this day. This is best illustrated by the fact that many of them continue to be rebooted by, and for, their fans. Reboot or not, Sierra games continue to enthrall garners even in their original form, despite the fact that the graphics (which were known to be “groundbreaking” at the time) appear primitive. This is because the storylines of those games, and the puzzles they posed, continue to intrigue and challenge many garners. Thankfully, they are still available on websites such as AbandonWare, Abandonia and, of course, via torrents. Additionally, many of these games can be played on sarien.net — a website designed by the Dutch developer Martin Kool — which also has an app for the iPad. How cool is that?
Here’s a rundown of some of Sierra’s best and most popular game series which you can still download and play.
Honorable kings and brave princesses, handsome knights and damsels in distress, mythical beasts and dragons and cupids; this series comprises seven games in total and centers on King Graham, the king of the mythical land of Daventry, and his family. Perhaps it is safe to say that of the seven games (die-hard King’s Quest fans like to pretend that the eight installment, Mask of Eternity, does not exist!), King’s Quest III remains the most beloved. It has been rebooted twice — once by Infamous Games, and more recently by AGD Interactive (which also rebooted King’s Quest I and II). Better still, Telltale Games, a California-based game developer, announced its plans to reboot the King’s Quest franchise [The King’s Quest franchise has been briefly covered in Spider’s August 2011 issue).
Quest for Glory
So you want be a hero? That’s the tagline of this game, where the hero is … you. Yup! You can choose to play as any of the three characters available — a fighter, a magician or a thief (in later games you can also be a paladin). This not only made the game more interesting, but also gave gamers a chance to play the game with three different approaches. Over the course of the series, which included five games in total, our hero travelled to different mythological lands — Spielburg, Shapeir, Tarna, Mordavia and Similaria — based on German, Arabian, African, Slavic, and Greek mythologies, respectively. With the exception of the last game, Quest for Glory V Dragon Fire, all the others were adventure games and required brains rather than brawns (read: mindless key punching) to complete. The first game was rebooted by Sierra itself, while the second one, Trial by Fire, has a great fan remake to its credit (by AGD interactive), with better graphics and an improved interface.
Your name is Sonny Bonds and you’re a detective/policeman. This fascinating series comprises three adventure games, one action game, and three spin-offs titled SWAT. However, it’s the first three games that require the most skill and ingenuity to complete, and take place in the fictional city of Lytton, California. Sonny starts off as a regular traffic officer, but moves on to become a narcotics detective, and finally, an undercover cop. Assisting him is his high-school sweetheart, Marie “Sweet Cheeks” Wilkins, who now works as a prostitute. By the second game, Sonny and Wilkins get married, showing that not only is Sonny a great cop but an open-minded one at that! The first game was remade by Sierra in 1992, and employs an easy-to-use interface; the second one remains untouched. Nevertheless, all three games are excellent and ‘realistic’ to this day.
Leisure Suit Larry
No mention of Sierra would be complete without mentioning the ultimate loser, Larry Laffer, who dons a white suit and looks for ‘love’ and its many manifestations throughout this six-game series. Created by the legendary Al Lowe, the protagonist of the game, much like James Bond, introduces himself as “Larry… Larry Laffer.” Unlike Bond, however, he never has a way with the ladies! In fact, the game follows him making a fool of himself in different ways, in different cities and in front of different women! However, that is the whole point of the game, and makes it all the more fun. The lewd sense of humor and garish situations all make this series one of Sierra’s most memorable offerings. And that’s not all.., other notable games by Sierra include The Gabriel Knight Series, Eco-Quest, Space Quest, Gold Rush and the Laura Bow mystery series, which you must try if you are a true video game enthusiast!