Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Forerunner foray (or, blasts from the past)

I blogged a while ago about Adventure on the iPhone -- Colossal Cave, that is, not the text adventure. Now Peter Hirschberg brings us the other one: Atari 2600 Adventure on the iPhone. It's a free download.

(As Nick Montfort likes to remind me, Warren Robinett intended his Atari Adventure game to be a port of the text game Adventure. It's extremely stylized, of course, but it's got the mazes and the monsters and the keys and the puzzles... the giant bat must be a reject from Wumpus, however.)

While my back was turned, Fantasy Flight Games got the rights to republish Cosmic Encounter. Great Bird of the Galaxy!

Cosmic was the game of my college years; we played a couple of games just about every Sunday afternoon. It was already out of print from its second publisher, and then (in 1991) reprinted by a third, and I could go on all day about the shortcomings of its various incarnations. And the expansion sets. (I had the enormous luck to find a copy of Eon's original Expansion Pack #8 in a dusty Pittsburgh gameshop. Kickers, kickers were key. I never cared for flares that much.)

Cosmic reappeared in 2000 in a nicely-produced -- but expensive and oversimplified -- box set from Avalon Hill. Then Cosmic Encounter Online, a capable (okay, still simplified) browser-based game which is still going strong. And now the wheel turns again: a new box set. Fantasy Flight's web site says it will ship this month for US$60.

The new edition looks pretty good. The famously complicated turn structure is diagrammed on each alien power card, with the important phase (for that power) highlighted. (Preview examples: Mind, Pacifist, Parasite, Loser, and newcomer Tripler.) No star-system hex boards, but you can make your own if you want the classic experience.

The all-important artwork is satisfactory. (And when I say "satisfactory", I just mean "I will always be wedded to the Eon artwork of my youth.") Kevin Wilson, the game designer in charge of the project, calls the style "retro-futurism", which I'd agree with -- old pulp covers, more than a hint of Frank Kelly Freas.

It will ship with 50 aliens, a decent selection -- handily graded by play-difficulty, if you want to introduce new players to the game. Expansion sets are promised. To be sure, each republisher of Cosmic has promised expansion sets, and I don't recall that any have succeeded except for Mayfair's minimal More Cosmic Encounter in 1992. Hopefully FF's edition will get enough love to keep growing.

Comments imported from Gameshelf

Andrew Plotkin (Nov 24, 2008 at 1:10 PM):

Okay, three days after I post this article, FF revamps their web site and destroys all my links. Way to go, FF.

New product page: http://store.fantasyflightgames.com/productdetails.cfm?sku=CE01

Card previews: http://new.fantasyflightgames.com/edge_news.asp?etyn=1&ecan=20&epn=0

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