Some months ago, I found an old zip file on my hard drive, containing an AGS-hit
from the past: Permanent Daylight by Intoxicated Little Bunny. I loaded it up,
wanting to reminisce the good old days when AGS games were still DOS-compatible
by default. I was filled with a sense of nostalgia, memories from my early youth,
and the feeling I had the first time I played Permanent Daylight - of playing,
for the first time, an amateur adventure game that didn't feel too much like an
amateur effort. Expectant, I waited for the title screen.
And boy did Permanent Daylight suck. My memories from the days of my innocent
youth had apparently been just that: innocent. No wonder, there wasn't much
contest back then for amateur adventure games - creating something like Permanent
Daylight was considered a great achievement then, by me at least. Not until
Apprentice did I play an amateur adventure game that really got something important
right, a game that seems to have passed the test of time.
I no longer remember how I found out about the original, non-deluxe, Apprentice.
Perhaps it was through some list of AGS game developers I was clicking through,
opening new tabs (did tabbed browsing already exist back then?) and trying to
pick out the game developers and projects to take note of. Apprentice had been
released a while ago, and I downloaded it. And my view of amateur adventure
games changed forever.
First of all, I was captivated
by the music. The composer later admitted that he wasn't satisfied with the
soundtrack. In retrospect I think he was right, but I was thrilled, having finally
found someone in the amateur scene who can make music. But as I played on, I
noticed that the important thing the developers of Herculean Effort got right
was that the player felt as if there was something more behind those pixelated
sprites. Pib was a living character, and so was Master, and so was Navy Joe.
In fact, even though we never saw Navy Joe until Apprentice II, he still felt
real even in the first game. Willowbean felt like an actual place with a history
and its own customs. This game had found that something special, that something
"the classics like Monkey Island had", and I thought it was only a
matter of time until the amateur community would take over the commercial side.
It would happen by 2005 at the latest, I thought.
But the revolution wasn't as abrupt as I had thought. These days the quality
of games is somewhat higher than three years ago, due to years of practice starting
to pay off, but few freeware games would be eligible for their own Wikipedia
articles. Apprentice II, 5 Days a Stranger, 7 Days a Skeptic...? My list ends
there, but it might be that I should be less demanding and embrace the amateur
genre despite its shortcomings.
But back to the Apprentice.
The surprising thing is that when you think about it, you notice that the story
of Apprentice is negligible at best. There is the dream sequence in the beginning,
sure, but the story ends and begins with it. There's no villain, and the only
tension there is the fear of being drafted by Lord Ironcrow. There's no conflict
to solve, nothing that would in any way be traditional storytelling as such.
Apprentice is a prime example of how much adventure games depend on exploration,
and how important a carefully crafted game world and back stories are in adventure
This is rather amusing, as many adventure gamers have separated themselves
into strict categories, either proclaiming that adventure games are all about
puzzles or that they are all about the story, when what I liked most about Apprentice
was the fact that I could have conversations with the crystal ball. (Okay, so
maybe it's just me.) The only reason I was motivated to solve any puzzles was
that eventually I ran out of things to do, and my adventure gamers' logic told
me that solving some of them would make something in the game world change and
let me do more exploring.
What about the Deluxe -version, then? At first the deluxe treatment felt a
bit like watching a colored black film. I had grown to like the 70s hippie music,
and imagining the character voices in my head. And it feels funny to think like
this because Apprentice Deluxe is not a fan effort but an extension created
by Herculean Effort themselves. I had formed an image of the way Pib and Master
talked. Lloyd sounded a lot different in my mind - a lot more mischievous and
vain, not like a bunny in a children's educational movie.
Then months passed, and I replayed Deluxe for this review. I was pleasantly
surprised. The memories of the original game had faded in my mind. First of
all the voice acting was more than satisfactory, with Lloyd and Highwaywoman
the only mild disappointments - Lloyd with the spectacular under acting and
Highwaywoman with her rather slow talking pace. The new soundtrack suddenly
sounded a lot more suitable for the game than the original, although the musical
style of the Apprentice games is perhaps even too uniform. The graphical enhancements
promised by HEP weren't that visible to me, but I suppose it made the developers
It would be foolish to call Apprentice, or even Apprentice Deluxe with its
enhanced music, a masterpiece of amateur games - for that it's far to small
in scope. Apprentice was an important milestone which will be remembered, and
probably more fondly and by more people than Permanent Daylight.