Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Forbidden Forest (C64, 1983)
It's quite interesting taking this trip down memory lane. Forbidden Forest originates from 1983 and it's definitely one to investigate. The reason is simple. I am of the opinion that apart from gameplay, what makes a videogame great is the atmosphere. If the game has such an atmosphere that can enchant you into believing you're briefly entering another (magical) world, an atmosphere that can draw you in, then this makes for all the difference. This is what separates good games from the truly great ones.
For example you can have a shoot-em-up which can be technically great and with pretty good gameplay, like SWIV on the Commodore 64. It will never be as good as Blood Money because Blood Money has that afore-mentioned feeling of immersion, with the levels being impeccably designed to give you this magical impression and a moody soundtrack to enhance it.
So it is with Forbidden Forest, which is actually one of the first games that can be labeled "cinematic". The programmer, Paul Norman, enveloped the simple arcade gameplay in a fantastic moody environment. The plot doesn't really matter. You control a guy who's trapped in a forest seized by ghouls and demons, and to defend yourself you have an arrow. What matters is the surroundings. As time passes, daylight slowly turns to dusk and dusk turns to night. Stars come out in the sky in the animated backgrounds (that feature some parallax scrolling) and colours change from brown to grey, to purple, to pitch black.
Also we get some really gory moments when the giant spiders, skeletons, dragons etc get you. Admittedly, in these days of advanced 3D gaming watching this blocky gore is quite funny, but back in the day it was the real deal.
The last stage is the best, where you try to defeat the ultimate demon, Morgor, who only becomes visible when lightning strikes, making for a chilly and almost subliminal effect. Couple that with the spooky sounds and great soundtrack, and you 've got one of the early masterpieces. Today's players will maybe laugh at it but the older (and wiser?) will recall with fondness and a fuzzy nostalgic feeling.