What do you get when Robert de Niro, Aerosmith, Superman, Jim Belushi and Cher collaborate with the twisted art of Mark Rydan to make a point-n-click adventure? The answer is one of gaming history's most notorious financial bombs. Nevertheless 9: The Last Resort (1996, Tribeca Interactive) is still a fascinating surreal head-trip of a game.
You play a nameless heir to this mysterious mansion built by the late explorer Thurston Last (voiced by Christopher Reeve, cinema's best Superman). Located on a small jungle island, the mansion was built to celebrate the oddities collected by the intrepid adventurer. After a long disappearance, Mr Last was found dead and some chaotic beings known as the Toxic Twins took over. Their name has a bit of a double meaning as they share it with that of the voice actors. Played by Stephen Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, they were given this moniker for their wild partying and drug use.
They're not the only rock-star legends to play a role in the game. Cher plays Isadora, a mechanical fortune teller that acts as the game's main menu. She will offer cryptic clues for a small fee however spare change is hard to come by. She's one of the 9 muses that inhabit the building and one of the few that will help you restore balance.
The one character you'll spend most of your time with is the most annoying. Played by James Belushi, he guides you through the game occasionally offering advice. Rather bizarrely, this cigar chomping lothario gets around by piloting a tiny biplane. His loud, brash voice is just as grating as the engine noise.
My first encounter with 9: The Last Resort was with a budget release at the turn of the millennium. It came with no extras or manuals - digital or otherwise - which is actually necessary for this game. Before you can enter the resort, a copy protection of sorts needs to be entered into the phone. This code is found of Thurston Last's will of which a physical copy was packaged with the original game. Needless to say, I could get no further and didn't pick it up again until recently when I found a pdf of everything I needed. In case you're wondering that code was 0821-1996-A92C. It's best to keep repeating it.
Now that I can enter, the sights before me are something to behold. Every wall is covered with artwork and other oddities, most of which can be zoomed in for a closer look. Mark Rydan has gathered a bit of a reputation in the art world for his weird paintings, a lot of which is found in the game. His style is also found in the mansion's decor giving the whole game a unique look that's stunningly beautiful and disturbingly grotesque all at the same time. Skeleton dogs are housed in fish tank displays, strange glistening creatures swell and contort on the pikes they've been placed on and a scattering of disembodied eyes seem to follow your every move. Even your allies have a distorted circus vibe to them. If you fancy delving further into his strange art - and I highly recommend it - you can visit his site here.
Rydan's art is framed on many of the mansion's walls,
as is some of his crazy album art for fake bands.
The game itself plays in a similar way to Myst. Screens are static with brief transitions between points. The puzzles also take a leaf out of Cyan's seminal work too. They are cryptic, confounding and all too often confusing. It doesn't help that the most difficult of them revolve around sound and music. Early on you'll be confronted with a game of pairs but instead of images or icons, it's sounds. You'd think it would be fairly easy but with several dozen pairs that need to be found, it becomes a test of patience.
I did find myself getting stuck several times which resulted in a lot of backtracking to get it right. Many answers to a puzzle - particularly the organ puzzles of which there are several - are found at opposite ends of the building. Make sure you keep a notepad handy and write everything down, whether it turns out to be a clue or not. You can only carry one item at a time too, so if you need several parts to complete a puzzle there's more backtracking for you. Keep a track of strange items on that notepad too so you can find them later. You'll thank me later as you wander the halls for the umpteenth time.
Upon release, 9: The Last Resort got a lot of mixed reviews. The art direction and production values were highly praised, but the obtuse puzzle design and high technical requirements were heavily criticised. As a result, it bombed heavily and Tribeca Interactive, Robert de Niro's production company, never produced another game.
Once I got into the groove, I really enjoyed 9: The Last Resort. The game itself is as schizophrenic as its art but if anything it's proof that an interesting style can be enough to keep you playing through those frustrating moments.
To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses DOSBox running Microsoft Windows 3.1 to get the game working on modern systems. Manual, Brochure, Postcard and Last's Will included. Tested on Windows 10.
File Size: 487 Mb. Install Size: 813 Mb. Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ
9: The Last Resort is © Tribeca Interactive
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me