Sunday, 14 February 2016

ROMANTIC BLUE


It's Valentine's Day today. I've already celebrated it with death and destruction, but that doesn't seem like enough to mark such an occasion. How about adding the ghosts and gore of The Romantic Blue? Surely that will make any date doe-eyed.

Developed by William R. Fisher III Studios who'd previous found cult success with the shareware horror adventure The Last Half of Darkness, this atmospheric title released in 1994 is romantic in both senses of the word. There's a true Gothic romance at play that harks back to Dracula or The Phantom of the Opera, but also a strangely touching love story.

Miranda is a lovelorn member of an evil cult known as the Sisterhood. This cult, ruled by the resurrected Morella has taken control of the village where young girls are taken in to learn their ways. They are forbidden to fall in love for fear of the supernatural Servants who lurk in the shadows. Yet Miranda still falls for Jack who has unknowingly captured her heart by playing beautiful music on the piano every night. When the moon rises, she sneaks out to the church graveyard to dance to the melody. Things take a turn for the worse when she confides in Cassandra, a Sister living outside of the convent. By the time she awakes the next morning, Cassandra has turned up dead. Struck with grief, she uses the magic knowledge she has learned to summon a stranger (you) to the village and save them all from the Morella and the evil Sisterhood.

That's quite a tale - and one that's far better told in the accompanying storybook - but the plot never quite gels in the actual game. The confused and rushed intro leaves you grasping for a basic plot and any revelations in-game seem to have been truncated into short blurbs. Right from the off you can tell that this was a low-budget title. Even for 1994 the graphics are simple and the mechanics a touch unpolished, yet funnily enough none of this really matters during play. The graphics are almost entirely made of the colour blue, making the streets of the village feel like the dead of night. While the low-res details are quite hard to make out as a result, there's still a palpable sense of atmosphere that's so strong it's enough to carry the entire game.

The game-play takes place in the first-person, with the relevant icons on the bottom. On the bottom left are the save options, your inventory bag and the action buttons which are cycled through with a right mouse click. These actions are look, operate, take and move with the occasional ability to speak with a question mark icon. The game has a habit of holding the text on-screen until the next button press, so if you want a clear field of view, you'll have to right-click and cycle all the way back to your desired function. It's quite frustrating and makes the large, ever-present exit button on the bottom right very tempting.

You begin the adventure in an ominously spooky crypt which is something I would consider romantic in the traditional sense. As soon as you exit, you're confronted with a girl draped over a gravestone. She is Miranda weeping over her lost friend and unrequited love - I'm no expert but surely that's the other kind of romance? From here you can explore the forever-blue village, occasionally bumping into those that go bump in the night. Considering the limited low-resolution graphics, these scares are quite successful. The cleverly chosen art design keeps you on edge as you explore, sending shivers down your spine with every encounter - supernatural or otherwise. Because everything is so dark, it takes a moment to register what's happening on screen (or at least it does to my bespectacled self). I found that on occasion, I would be in a room and suddenly realise I'm not alone. There's another human in here with me! Most characters are introduced with music, jump scares or the scratchy voice sample recorded with an echo filter on overkill. Those that aren't presented like this are the most chilling in my mind, silently lurking in the background.

Later on, you'll be required to traverse a maze-like crypt filled with monsters (and money). The game-play here turns into that of a basic early dungeon crawler where fighting enemies (if you have the sword) and a health management is the done thing. You can easily run away from the danger if need be, and there are the odd spells to help you on your way but the segment is relatively brief and easy. Just make sure you have some graph  paper handy to map out the maze-like catacombs.

In my research for romantic games to feature this weekend, there's not really that much to choose from - unless overly sexualised Japanese dating sims are your thing. Even those fondly remembered classics like Leisure Suit Larry are more smut than smooch. Modern games are doing better by exploring mature relationships in big-budget RPGs or featuring the more tender approach in indie titles such as To The Moon or Gone Home. There's such a huge gap in the market that it got me wondering why romance isn't a major theme explored in games. Maybe one day we'll have the video-game equivalent of a rom-com, but until then your have to get your love fix in any way you can. With a side order of death, destruction, ghosts and gore.


To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses DOSBox to bring the game to modern systems. Manual, Map and Storybook included. Tested on Windows Windows 10.

File Size: 33 Mb.  Install Size: 60 Mb.  Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ

Download


The Romantic Blue is © WRF Studios
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me

Like this? Try These...

Veil of Darkness  The Return of the Phantom  Echo Night

10 comments:

  1. Classic games about romance. You're right, that is tricky. I'd call Leisure Suit Larry more a sex comedy than smut, but you're right that it's not particularly romantic. Romantic Encounters at the Dome sounds right, but that one is smut. Oh! Speaking of text adventures, what about Plundered Hearts?

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  2. Classic games about romance. You're right, that is tricky. I'd call Leisure Suit Larry more a sex comedy than smut, but you're right that it's not particularly romantic. Romantic Encounters at the Dome sounds right, but that one is smut. Oh! Speaking of text adventures, what about Plundered Hearts?

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    1. I did think about Plundered Hearts, but I think it's still sold on the iPad at least. I also found games based on Clueless and The Princess Bride, but I've yet to get them working. I also thought it was funny to add 'romantic' games where the basis is anything but.

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    2. It is on the iPad, you're right. I'd forgotten about that Infocom collection. And I still can't think of any others. Well, there was that mediocre arcade game Mikie, but that's it.

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  3. just want to let you know that one file is missing on 101 dalmatians

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    1. I'll have a look. Is it the Animated Storybook or Escape from DeVil Manor?

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  4. To dismiss Japanese dating sims/visuals novels offhand is not super fair. Yes, there are a LOT of subpar, sexualized titles in the genre but there is actually a fair bit of good to be found within as well. The only issue is that most of it revolves around high school romance due to some sort of longstanding cultural obsession. Still, some pretty great stuff there if you dig around. Mostly I flock to the genre exactly because of the real lack of romance-focused narratives in other games.

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    1. I have played a couple such as Kana: Little Sister and Eve Burst Error many years ago. From what I recall, both had strong stories to go with the graphic hentai elements, but I found these images just cheapens the overall story. They are so jarring they take me out of the game so I don't tend to enjoy them as much as I'd like. It just seems so unnecessary to me. It doesn't help that most perpetuate the stereotype that they just porn which I don't particularly want on this site. It would have to be a pretty exceptional game for me to feature it.

      That being said I do seem to have fond memories of Eve so I may include that one day.

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  5. Biffman... Everything okay? Still alive?

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    1. Still here, Jinx. Had a hectic couple of months personally and professionally. Hope to post something later today

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