Today’s Art (28th December 2013)

Well, both of today’s drawings ended up being concept art for an unfinished comic I tried to make a little under a week ago. I’ll post the rest of the concept art tomorrow and then the comic pages that I actually made on the 30th and the 31st.

As usual, these two drawings are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

" Comic Concept Art - Cartridge" By C. A. Brown

“Comic Concept Art – Cartridge” By C. A. Brown

"Comic Concept Art - Encroachment" By C. A. Brown

“Comic Concept Art – Encroachment” By C. A. Brown

Nostalgia Review: “Gadget: Lost In Time [PC Version]”

2013 Artwork Gadget Lost In Time Review Sketch

First of all, I’d like to say thanks to my Dad for finding my old copy of this game 🙂 As I mentioned recently, I’ve been looking for this old game for a while and, now I’ve had a chance to re-play some of it, I thought that I’d review it.

Since there seems to be very little about this classic game on the internet, this article will probably be more of a historical essay than a conventional review. I don’t think that there are many second-hand copies of this game floating around (there seem to be a few copies of the Amiga version of it on the UK eBay site at the time of writing this review) and I don’t know if it was ever released outside of the UK, so it’s probably fairly rare and extremely obscure these days.

I should also point out that, although I completed or almost completed this game when I was a kid, I got stuck on level six (out of ten or eleven) when I re-played it for this review. So I only took the screenshots in this review from the first six levels.

A more comprehensive gallery of screenshots of the Amiga version, covering all of the levels, can be found on this website. The only difference between that version and the PC version seems to be that the level titles have animated backgrounds in the Amiga version. The website also contains level passwords too, although I kind of wanted to play the game through without cheating, so I didn’t use these.

Anyway, without any further ado, let’s take a look at “Gadget: Lost In Time”

Mad Gadget Titlescreen

Mad Gadget options screen

This PC/Amiga game from 1993 is based on Chris Winn’s “Mad Gadget” cartoons – these were a series of cartoons about a boy called “Mad Gadget” who invented ridiculously convoluted and bizarre gadgets.

Each cartoon would show a picture of Mad Gadget using whichever gadget he’d made, with lots of interesting details and coded messages hidden in the picture. These were published in a supplement which came with the Daily Telegraph and they were also collected into a (probably out of print by now) book too.

Anyway, “Gadget: Lost In Time” is a strange fusion between a 2D platform game and a quiz game. You play as Mad Gadget who, after inventing a time machine, finds himself stranded several million years into the past and must find a way back home.

Each level takes place in a different period in history and you have to find and correctly answer five trivia questions (about the time period you’re visiting) in order to unlock a crystal which can then be used to power your time machine and take you to the next level.

One of the trivia questions from level one. The answer is "B" by the way...

One of the trivia questions from level one. The answer is “B” by the way…

The crystal you find at the end of each level.

The crystal you find at the end of each level.

In order to find each question, you have to find one of five bouncing objects and then press “down” in front of it.

Each of these objects resemble something from the time period in question – for example, they are dinosaur eggs in the first level, they are the ark of the covenant in the second level, they are ancient Greek scrolls in the third level etc….

Or a bouncing shield in the "viking invasion" level.

Or a bouncing shield in the “viking invasion” level.

You can only find these objects in a particular order and, if you get a question wrong, then you will have to answer it again when you find the next object. You will then have to answer the final question in the location where you answered the first question and so on.

Basically, one of the most important things you must do in each level is to memorise the locations for each of the five questions, in case you get any of them wrong and have to answer more questions.

Once you’ve found the crystal, you must carry it back to your time machine in order to complete the level. Not only that, some levels also have level bosses that must be defeated before you can get the crystal.

Spyro the dragon was no match for my fire extinguisher...

Spyro the dragon was no match for my fire extinguisher…

In addition to this, you also have a different gadget which you can use in each level. This can be accessed by pressing the “u” key and each gadget serves a different purpose in each level. For example, in the first level, your gadget is a remote control which can be used to trigger several moving platforms which you need to use in order to complete the level.

Interestingly, in some levels, your gadget is a rather unusual type of weapon which can usually only be used (or even drawn) during a boss fight.

The strangest one of these weapons is probably in the third level (Ancient Greece) where you get a box with a pop-up mirror in it. Whilst you can use it throughout the entire level, it is pretty much useless until you encounter the final boss.



I remember that this Medusa boss almost drove me insane with frustration when I was a kid. She fires projectiles at you and, if even one of them hits you, then you turn to stone and die (regardless of how much health you have).

If you use the mirror (which requires fairly precise timing) when you are a fair distance away, it will deflect her shots towards the ceiling. The only way to actually defeat the Medusa is to stand very close to her and use the mirror when she fires at you. Since you will only have a few lives and this requires split-second timing, expect to be frustrated by this level.

However, the most challenging part of this game is both the level design and the “ordinary” enemies. As well as “anachronisms” (which are floating clouds containing enemies from other levels), each level contains an assortment of stylised mythological and/or (mostly) historically accurate enemies.

ACTUALLY, ninjas didn't dress like this! The only reason everyone thinks they do is because this black outfit was based on the outfits that "invisible" stage hands wore during kabuki plays. Actual ninja assassins tried to blend in and look as "ordinary" as possible in ancient Japan.

ACTUALLY, ninjas didn’t dress like this! The only reason everyone thinks they do is because this black outfit was based on the outfits that “invisible” stage hands wore during kabuki plays. Actual ninja assassins tried to blend in and look as “ordinary” as possible in ancient Japan.

Although the enemies mostly behave in fairly consistent ways in each level (eg: there’s a fast enemy, a slow enemy and a weak enemy), the combat system is kind of interesting.

Basically, you need to jump on one of the basic enemies once or twice. When you do this, they will be temporarily “squashed”- you then need to stand in front of them and press “down”. Gadget will pick them up and, if you press “Ctrl”, then he will throw them – meaning you can use them as a weapon against other enemies if you want to.

Did anyone order a Minotaur pizza?

Did anyone order a Minotaur pizza?

This often requires precision jumping and timing, since it’s extremely easy to miss and take damage from the enemy you’re trying to jump on. Since you only have a limited number of lives and can only take about four hits before you lose a life and have to restart the level, it’s a good idea to be cautious.

And, whilst you can occasionally gain extra lives (by scoring enough points etc…), there are no “health” power-ups in the game. So, again, play cautiously. However, your health gets refilled at the beginning of each new level.

One annoying thing about “Gadget: Lost In Time” is that it relies on a very old-fashioned password-based saving system rather than a proper saving system. So, you will need a pen and paper handy if you want to “save” your game. Interestingly, the amount of lives you have is also encoded into the password. I’ll provide a list of my own passwords so far [for the PC version] at the end of this review.

For an old game from 1993, the level design is surprisingly good – all of the backgrounds are fairly well-drawn for the time and I absolutely love the background art in this game too.

... Plus, it's the only game I've ever played that features the white cliffs of Dover too.

… Plus, it’s the only game I’ve ever played that features the white cliffs of Dover too.

Most of the levels are also fairly non-linear too. In addition to this, many of the levels also contain a couple of additional buildings and rooms which you can explore. One minor criticism I have of the level design is the fact that the levels are all relatively small. Although, saying that, they seemed a lot bigger when I was a kid and, since you’ll be running back and forth for most of the game, the small levels aren’t an entirely bad thing.

Some levels also contain secrets too- for example, if you walk to the bottom left corner of the second level and wait there for a while, then coins will start falling from the sky:

I discovered this by accident when I was a kid and it still amazes me even to this day...

I discovered this by accident when I was a kid and it still amazes me even to this day…

As for the background music, it is fairly similar throughout the game and it mostly consists of a single song played in a loop. You will either find this song to be incredibly annoying or, like me, find it to be a surprisingly wonderful piece of childhood nostalgia.

All in all, “Gadget: lost In Time” is a surprisingly challenging and very playable game. Yes, it has a couple of flaws, but the nostalgia and fun value of this game far outweighs these minor problems.

Personally, I feel that it is an absolute shame that this timeless and fun game from the best decade in gaming history has drifted into obscurity and rarity these days. “Gadget: Lost In Time” is just crying out for a modern re-release (Steam and GOG, I’m looking at you).

On a purely technical level, and trying to put my nostalgia aside for a minute, if I had to give this game a rating out of five – then it would probably get a four. It’s playable, challenging and fun, but a proper save system and a few health power-ups would have been a very welcome addition.

Anyway, as promised, here’s my password list for the first six levels.

“Gadget: Lost In Time” PC version level passwords (levels 2-6):

Level Two – 5BFB962D7

Level Three – 8BG9D5HC

Level Four – 212445J843 (one life left)

Level Five – 6FGF9C685 (one life left)

Level Six – 6FFFBHC13J (no lives left)

“Damania Lite – Doomed” (Comic)

"Damania Lite - Doomed" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Lite – Doomed” By C. A. Brown

If you’ve ever played any classic 1990s FPS games (like “Doom”) then you’ll probably know that picking up most of the keys in every level will cause an alcove in the wall to open and a creature to emerge. I’ve always wondered exactly how long exactly those creatures stay in the alcoves, because it’s a pretty random thing to build somewhere.

Oh, by the way, “Damania Lite” will probably finish tomorrow. I’ll explain more in tomorrow’s post.If you’re interested, more “Damania Lite” comics can be found here. But, if you want to read the original comics (which have more panels and slightly better art), then they can also be found here.

Today’s Art (27th December 2013)

Well, I decided to move back to using a slightly larger drawing size (just under half an A5 page) for both of today’s drawings and this worked out fairly well, even if both of today’s drawings ended up looking slightly generic.

I don’t know, I might just be having an uninspired day or this is possibly a sign that I need to start thinking about making a proper comic for a while. I don’t know.

"Realm Of Chaos" By C. A. Brown

“Realm Of Chaos” By C. A. Brown

Realm Of Chaos” was originally going to be a vaguely ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’-esque fantasy drawing, but it quickly went in a much more gothic direction…

"The Cold Hills" By C. A. Brown

“The Cold Hills” By C. A. Brown

The Cold Hills” started out fairly well, although the background ended up being incredibly boring and generic.

Creating Without Thinking

2013 Artwork Creating Without Thinking Sketch

Whilst I’ve already written about being “in the zone” at least once before, I thought that I’d look at this subject in a slightly different way in this article.

In case anyone is unfamiliar with this term, being “in the zone” refers to times when you feel extremely creative, where you produce lots of stuff in a surprisingly short time and all of it is very good. It’s those times when you are never short of ideas and, when you think of a good idea, an even better one tends to follow a few seconds later and so on.

If you’ve ever been “in the zone”, you’ll know what I’m talking about here.

Anyway, I was playing a 2D platform game recently (when aren’t I these days?) and I was doing really really well at it. I was racking up a surprisingly high score and everything was going very well. In short, I was “in the zone”. Then I actually thought about this fact for a while. Then I lost the game. I wasn’t in the zone any more.

But, I learnt something.

For everything bad that people say about computer games and videogames, one thing that a suitably engrossing game does is that it allows you to enter an almost meditative state of mind. Yes, playing videogames can actually end up being something close to meditating.

Seriously, when you’re playing a game and you’re in the zone, nothing else matters – your world is the screen in front of you and even a single stray thought bouncing through your brain will distract you and throw you out of the zone. In short, you pretty much end up operating on instinct, you think about three seconds ahead of whatever is happening on the screen and there is this blissful wordless silence between your ears. This is what being in the zone can feel like.

Of course, playing a computer game is a totally different activity to writing a story or drawing a picture and there are some obvious differences between what being “in the zone” feels like depending on what you are doing. But, there are similarities too – namely the sense of not actively having to think of anything. Everything already seems to be there and your only job is to react to it.

But, although I don’t really write that much fiction these days, one of the interesting things I’ve noticed when “I’ve been in the zone” whilst writing is that I seemed to be almost above the words I was writing. This is about the best way I can describe it. I wasn’t quite thinking about my story visually, but I wasn’t quite thinking about it in words either. In fact, I wasn’t really thinking about it at all.

Ok, obviously, I was aware of what I was writing. This wasn’t some kind of mystical Aleister Crowley-esque 19th century automatic writing exercise or anything like that. It just kind of flowed. Somehow, the story was already there, I was just three seconds ahead of what I was writing and I was simply reacting to it and allowing it to flow through me rather than trying to think out each individual sentence and word.

The same goes for drawing too – although a few of my best drawing have been ones I’ve planned out in advance, many of my better drawings just kind of happen spontaneously. I sit there with my sketchbook and a pencil and draw a random line and then just let it flow. Sometimes, I surprise myself. Again though, I don’t really think that much when I’m drawing, I just draw.

I don’t know if there’s that much of a point to this article and I don’t know how useful any of this is, since not thinking seems to be something that happens when you are already in the zone.

But, if you can find a way to get into this state of mind (and still be able to focus on things), then this might just be one way of getting into “the zone”.

“Damania Lite – Tree Tipping” (comic)

"Damania Lite - Tree Tipping" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Lite – Tree Tipping” By C. A. Brown

(By the way, “Damania Lite” will finish on the 29th. Sorry about this, but I’ll explain why in more detail on the 29th.)

If you’re interested, more “Damania Lite” comics can be found here. But, if you want to read the original comics (which have more panels and slightly better art), then they can also be found here.

How To Draw Chess Pieces (Bishop)

Well, for today’s instalment of my “How to Draw” series I thought that I’d show you how to draw a bishop. I’m not sure how many chess pieces I’ll make drawing guides for, but this might become a series-within-a-series….

[Hmm… I’ve just realised that the shadow is in slightly the wrong place in the fifth step of this guide]

This image is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

This image is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

Today’s Art (26th December 2013)

Wow, I’m really proud of both of today’s drawings 🙂 I’m still using a smaller drawing size at the moment though, so both of these drawings are best viewed at about a quarter of their original size.

As usual, these two drawings are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"1997 Called"  By C. A. Brown

“1997 Called” By C. A. Brown

1997 Called” was originally meant to be a drawing of a woman holding a notebook computer or a Nintendo DS, but I kind of drew this badly and it ended up looking like a cool retro laptop computer from the 90s.

Although I love retro stuff, I got the sense that the character in this drawing didn’t, so I added some sarcstic dialogue in the background. This is one of the few drawings I’ve made where the character has influenced the rest of the drawing so strongly.

"Anatomy Of A Nightmare" By C. A. Brown

“Anatomy Of A Nightmare” By C. A. Brown

Anatomy Of A Nightmare” was originally a black and white drawing, but I ended up adjusting the RGB values of the drawing after I scanned it in order to make it look more dramatic.

Nostalgia Review: “Word Rescue” (Computer Game)

Yes, that's a floppy disk. Does anyone remember those things?

Yes, that’s a floppy disk. Does anyone remember those things?

Childhood nostalgia is a strange and unpredictable thing. Sometimes the things which you don’t think you’ll feel nostalgic about turn out to actually be the most nostalgic things of all. One of those things is Apogee’s “Word Rescue”, a puzzle/platform/educational computer game from 1992. I don’t know if it was the first computer game I ever played, but it was certainly one of the first.

I’d almost forgotten about this game entirely until my Dad turned up an old copy of it when I asked him if he still had a copy of another old 1990s game I was randomly feeling nostalgic about (a ‘Mad Gadget’ game called “Gadget: Lost In Time” – if he finds it then I’m definitely reviewing it too).

Initially I was kind of sceptical about “Word Rescue”, since I only really had vague memories about it and it never really held the same status in my mind as, say, “Commander Keen” or any of the really old “Duke Nukem” games.

Still, since I didn’t have a copy of “Gadget: Lost In Time”, I decided to load up the “Word Rescue” disks instead. Yes, it’s on floppy disk – does anyone remember these? Needless to say, I was surprised at how nostalgic it made me feel – so nostalgic in fact, that I thought that I’d review it.

Interestingly, Apogee/3D Realms still has a page for this game, complete with a free shareware demo (consisting of the first episode) which you can download . Although you’ll probably need to use DOSBox to run it on a modern computer.

Even though I’ve got a copy of the full game, this review will primarily focus on the first episode, because this is all I’ve really played so far.

Anyway, the story behind “Word Rescue” is that quite a few words have been stolen by (surprisingly adorable) evil creatures called Gruzzles and it is up to you, along with a magical book-worm (a green caterpillar-like creature) called Benny to get them back.

One of the cool things about this game is the fact that it gives you a choice whether to play as a male or a female character – seriously, some modern games could learn a lot from this simple game from 1992.

But, yes, the story is kind of bizarre and doesn’t really make much sense but, hey, it’s a game from the 90s. It doesn’t need to.

What? It was the 90s! Games didn't have to make sense...

What? It was the 90s! Games didn’t have to make sense…

The game itself is a 2D platform game that apparently uses the same game engine as the original “Duke Nukem” did. However, the gameplay is slightly different from your average platform game. Since, instead of collecting several keys or shooting anything, there are several blocks in various parts of the level.

Each one has a question mark on it until you jump into it, once you do this, it displays a word and all of the other boxes change into various pictures. You then need to explore the level and find the picture which corresponds with the word.

Part of the level completion animation.

Part of the level completion animation.

Once you’ve done this seven times, Benny will appear to collect the words, revealing a key which you’ll be able to use to leave the level. If you accidentally find the wrong picture, then a gruzzle will appear. There are also a few of them randomly wandering around each level too.

Awww.... Aren't they cute?

Awww…. Aren’t they cute?

These cute, but menacing creatures can be easily dealt with by pressing the spacebar when you are standing quite close to them and facing towards them – Benny will appear and drop a bucket of slime on top of the gruzzle. There’s a limit to the amount of slime that he can carry though and you’ll have to find additional buckets of it as you progress throughout the game.

Again, it's fairly random, but it WAS the 1990s....

Again, it’s fairly random, but it WAS the 1990s….

One of the interesting things is that, re-playing “Word Rescue” these days, the levels are a lot smaller than I remember them being when I was a lot younger (although they get slightly larger as you progress through each episode). Even so, you’ll probably spend at least a little while running back and forth across each level and memorising the location of each box and avoiding gruzzles.

Since most of the gameplay revolves around searching for pictures and dodging or sliming gruzzles, there’s relatively little platforming in this game. Yes, there are plenty of places you can jump up to or fall down into but if you’re looking for a traditional 2D platformer, then you might find at least the early levels of “Word Rescue” to be kind of disappointing.

Whilst the first few levels of episode one look pretty similar, there’s at least some variety in terms of the settings later in the episode:

word rescue pueblo level

word rescue factory

From what I’ve seen of them so far, episode two seems to be mostly set in underground caves and caverns. Episode three seems to be the most interesting, since it’s set in a wonderfully 1990s haunted house:

A floppy disk and a "pixel art" haunted house, you can't get more 90s than THIS!

A floppy disk and a “pixel art” haunted house, you can’t get more 90s than THIS!

But, one of the few criticisms I have of “Word Rescue” is the fact that it was never localised for the UK.

I don’t think that this confused me too much when I was a kid (after all, I used to watch “Power Rangers”, “Sabrina The Teenage Witch”, “Beetleborgs”, numerous American cartoons etc… back then), but expect at least a few American spellings and/or words when you’re playing this game.

"..I pledge allegiance to the flag of ..."

“..I pledge allegiance to the flag of …”

Then again, most of these words are in common usage over here these days anyway and it never hurts to learn different versions of English. Although I have to admit that it’s kind of funny that most of the nostalgic things from my childhood are from a country that I’ve never actually visited LOL!!!!!

Of course, given that the game was made in Texas and primarily marketed in America, the lack of UK localisation isn’t really too surprising and it doesn’t really affect the game too much.

All in all, if you were a kid in the 90s, then there’s a chance that you’ve already played this game. If you haven’t, then it might still make you feel nostalgic for the beginning of the best decade in gaming history. Whilst I don’t know exactly how “educational” this game actually is, it’s still a reasonably fun puzzle game nonetheless.

I don’t know how (or even if) I can really give a cherished piece of my childhood a simple rating out of five or ten or whatever. So, I’ll just say that this game is worth playing and it’s absolutely crammed with retro nostalgia 🙂