A man stumbles into a town at night on his way to a lively tavern. With his pithy one-liners and over-confident swagger, he's travelled a great distance with one ambition; to be a mighty pirate... I mean musketeer! Touche: The Adventures of the Fifth Musketeer (1995, Clipper Software & U.S.Gold) wears its inspiration on its sleeve but the change of location and overall plot does just enough to give it its own identity, and not be a shameless ripoff of The Secret of Monkey Island.
Any similarities to that absolute classic in more of a loving homage than an outright reproduction of the game. For starters, Touche is set in 16th century France at a time when they are war with England. It's the same backdrop as The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo and other great works by Alexandre Dumas which is ripe for parody. The sly, often witty words that come out of our protagonist's mouth proves you can get just as much mileage here as you can from pirate cliches.
Going by the name of Geoffroi Le Brun, you have arrived at the town of Rouen to train as the new Ensign of His Majesty's Musketeers. Upon your very arrival, you witness the murder of Count Willian de Peuple. His last words were to recover his will (the will of de Peuple - ha!) stolen from him in the attack. Also witness to this atrocity is Henri, your ever-hungry beggar/barman/con man/somewhat loyal manservant. Getting found out in his vagabond swindle, he is fired from his job as a barman and joins you on your new-found quest. That's quite a character arc for the first five minutes.
Love at first sight-gag. Geoffroi makes some hilarious attempts to woo Juliette (left)
D'Artagnan and The Three Musketeers are in the game but are absolutely no help (right)
At first, Henri is little more than a foil to bounce off acerbic comments. To give him something to do, he can also carry items in his sack, much like Luggage from the Discworld games, though limited item slots for our hero isn't really a thing here. The true value of his companionship from a gameplay standpoint comes when he is needed to solve some of the puzzles. About halfway through, you get to dress him up as a monk to infiltrate the belltower of a monastery. Up until this point, puzzles consisted entirely of correct manipulation of the inventory and the odd pixel hunt, but including your cohort in this way was a welcome change to the formula.
Other puzzles end up being a little obtuse. At one point, you have to find a lost letter written by Captain Pleinforce of the musketeers. Searching the office requires little more than clicking on things, but you have to click on certain objects in order for you to find it. To make things worse, you might be stuck if you don't do it correctly. Either by a bug in the original game's code or one in ScummVM's implementation of it, I couldn't get it right even with a sneaky peek at the walkthrough. I spent an inordinate amount of time clicking on different papers only to come back later to find the puzzle had reset. Basically, examine the feather pen, the ink well and the stacks of paper from right to left in that order. If it doesn't work, leave and come back to try again.
There are a few other moments that expose the game's relatively lower budget. For starters, the graphics appear to be of little improvement over Monkey Island 2 which released three years earlier (though I wouldn't say it's an ugly game). Several locations, most notably the stables, reuse background art and character sprites (though the game itself deliberately mentions this as a joke). Some of the animations get a little lazy at times too. The practising musketeers in the courtyard may move fluidly, but when our hero comically falls out of a tree later on in the story, he uses up a single frame to go from standing on a branch to lying face down on the grass (though one could argue this makes it funnier).
Real-world locations are represented, including Le Mans, St. Quentin (left) and Paris (right)
I remember reading about Touche back in PC Gamer back in the day. It was one of the games used as an incentive to subscribe to the magazine (and I unsuccessfully begged my parents to do so, fantasising about getting either this or Realms of the Haunting). The game has become something of a collector's item now, with complete copies going for around £150 on eBay if and when they show up. I'm often tempted to ignore my financial situation and fork out for it making it the most I've ever spent on a single game.
Other than die-hard adventure gamers, I'm surprised to find it's somewhat forgotten. I found nothing on YouTube other than long-plays which is surprising considering its support on ScummVM. I'd hazard a guess that it's because it didn't get the marketing push that it perhaps needed due in part to U.S. Gold's financial troubles. The British publisher would later be merged with other struggling companies to found Eidos a year later, so my guess is that it got caught in the crossfire.
None of this has any bearing on the overall quality of the final game. Playing it is a welcome throwback to the golden age of the genre. It may ease a little too close to another celebrated game, but those Monkey Island comparisons end up being favourable ones and you don't need me to tell what that means.
Just in case you do, though, it means PLAY IT!
To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses ScummVM to allow the game to run on modern PCs. Manual included. Tested on Windows 10.
File Size: 142 Mb. Install Size: 181 Mb. Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ
Touche: The Adventures of the Fifth Musketeer is © Clipper Software & U.S. Gold
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me