Being as it is No-Effort November and I am already penning this after having brushed my teeth and let my last fuck for the day wend its way off into the yonder, my plan was to talk for roughly five hundred words and with zero meaningful insight about the 1990 narrative adventure game Les Manley in: Search For The King.
A tepid little entry into the ‘maybe I’ll get to see boobs’ genre of adventure games pioneered by such titles as the Leisure Suit Larry and Spellcasting franchises, rather than coming from the duelling giants of Sierra and Lucasarts, or their peripheral competitors, this game was made by Accolade. Now, there’s some novel history here, where the guy who made the game was Steve Cartwright, who you may recognise if you’re a huge Atari 2600 nerd, and also is responsible for making Diner Dash, yes, that Diner Dash, no, it doesn’t mean anything to me either.
The thing is, Accolade as a company was, when I was paying attention to it, one of the more soul-light games studios. They were making The Next Sports Game throughout the 1980s, and were probably the first brand that really got going based on official branded tie-ins, even if it was for things like Golf. And I say that knowing full well that in the ouvre of Accolade, they have Star Control 2, Warpspeed, Bubsy, and Eradicator, all games that I think are worth talking about, but also, mixed in with that classic and three games that were going in the same direction and split the cab fare, Accolade made a lot of crap.
And I mean a lot of crap.
Accolade were a company that were founded by spite; the lore goes that Accolade, formed out of the leavings of Activision in an acrimonious way, named their company that way so that in all the official documentation that handled things alphabetically, they’d always appear near but also ahead of Activision. Activision, you may remember, are one of many videogame companies that is just plain fucking evil, but don’t let that distract you from Accolade’s own sins: Being really boringly petty.
Anyway, Accolade made Les Manley in: Search For The King as a synthesis of three of the hottest ideas in videogaming in 1990: Elvis Conspiracies, Peewee Herman, and tits. Les Manley was conceived as a character who could carry a franchise (lord), as a sort of nebbish loser nerd, someone the audience could relate to, who could solve problems in a highly technical and creative way rather than applying direct force to it. He was a Roger Wilco, a Leisure Suit Larry, a Graham of Daventry, but exaggerated to be more of a dork, more embarrassingly pathetic.
I have like, stuff, notes about this game. About the ways it’s ass and the way its puzzles are fantastically bad design and maybe I’ll put together a video to show you the kinds of feedback the game gives you, with the strange ‘maybe you’ll see tits’ scenes that populate this game that is definitely horny but also definitely not going to show you anything. I could show you its place in context of other narrative adventures, coming out in the same year as Kings Quest V and The Secret Of Monkey Island. I could talk about the way this story demeans women constantly in some sort of proto-incel way that honestly makes Larry Laffer look like kind of a much cooler guy than he actually is.
But I’m not.
I’m not because the original way I was going to talk about this game was as an abandonware, and how abandonware could be used as an insight into cultural windows that have since closed. How being able to freely access games from our history, games that were no longer commercially costly, was a good and that we should be supporting abandonware and archive sites. But then I found to my shock and surprise that Les Manley has been unabandoned. Someone got this game in a rights purchase, probably as part of a bundle, and said: You know what, I bet I can get a tenner for that.
And the thing is: Fuck that.
No, this game is not worth $10. Maintaining the museum of digital storage and software compatabilities that let us play this game should not be financed with on-the-spot payments of $10. I understand that gog are doing a service that I am, yes, willing to pay for, but I cannot get my head around the idea that this game is going to be preserved through capitalism, because the market spoke. The free market was given two Les Manley games, and he sank beneath the waves 30 years ago, in part because by the standards of 1990, he sucked ass.
I don’t have a particularly ornate point here; it’s a simple thought, a realisation that while I may like it when gog meant I could run Fallout on my netbook ten years ago, the idea that stores are how we preserve other games means that things that are interesting to look at, where anyone being paid money for it has nothing to do with the creation of it, is a fundamental inimical ill and I heartily recommend that you watch a lets play of this terrible game to come to understand how it does things terribly, and that it’s always ethical to emulate games.
It’s late, this game sucks, and this game should be preserved and free for people, and the work of preservation should be getting paid for for its own sake.