Retro Corner: Discworld 2: Missing, Presumed…!?

Posted on July 8, 2011 by

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Right, in order to get the taste of LA Noire out of my mouth, let’s look back at a classic point-and-click adventure game. While there are plenty to choose from- Day of the Tentacle, The Monkey Island games, The Indiana Jones games, by far and away the most devious, complicated, and- in my humble opinion- funniest of them all was Discworld 2.

The first Discworld game was a rough adaptation of the events of the book Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett, but replacing the protagonist Sam Vimes with the ‘Wizzard’ Rincewind, probably the most recognisable figure in the Discworld books due to the sheer number of books based on him. Rincewind (voiced in both games by the brilliant Eric Idle) was faced with the task of dealing with a rather large dragon that was terrorising the city of Ankh-Morpork. While many people praised the story-telling and acting, the game was criticised for technical issues.

Discworld 2 is a direct sequel to the first game (There have, however, been two indirect sequels- The highly underrated Discworld Noir, and The Colour of Magic, a text-adventure adapted directly from the book of the same name) in which Rincewind suddenly finds himself having to track down DEATH, and convince him to go back to his job, because people not dying when they’re supposed to is the sort of thing that’s going to cause trouble (and is in fact the plot of the next Torchwood series, probably without Wizards, though.

So, reluctantly and sardonically, Rincewind collects his luggage (a homicidal travel chest with hundreds of little legs, infinite storage space, and a tendency to eat people who threaten it’s owner) and begins an epic quest to find DEATH. He is, understandably, not very pleased about it.

One of the first games to warrant a strategy guide* (something most games really do not need, but somehow manage to acquire anyway, Discworld 2 was truly demanding of that might tome. Not even Sierra themselves could have made such an ingeniously, insanely complicated game. Don’t believe me? Here’s an except describing one of the simplest puzzles in the game-

“Use the shark on the Bursar. Use the flamingo on the Dean. Use the wading bird on the librarian. You will get the three sticks – Leave the garden.”

And it really only gets weirder from there. I started playing Discworld 2 when I was 11. Determined to beat it without cheating, I completed the game a mere 9 years later at the age of 20. How many games these days can boast 9 years of gameplay? I’ll be amazed if the next Call of Duty offers 9 minutes. But honestly, I didn’t play the game for the puzzles. I played it to see the Disc, to see it’s characters brought to life, to see how many references to the books I could catch, how many jokes I would get (more and more with age, on that one) and to laugh at Rincewind’s special ‘sarcasm’ option in conversations, which was always unique depending on the person and how the conversation was going. Discworld 2 borrows liberally from Mort, Reaper Man, Moving Pictures and Lords and Ladies, but also sprinkles the entire game with an attention to detail and obsessiveness that would stumble even Bryan Lee O’Malley.

Eric Idle was pretty much the perfect choice to voice Rincewind the ‘Wizzard’ (as he spells it), a hapless, useless wizard not unlike Schmederick from The Last Unicorn. Rincewind might not be any good at magic, but he does posses and rare quality that few others on the Disc can boast- Common Sense. He also has a knack for languages (Flashman style, like all good cowards) and is extremely talented at long-distance running. Rincewind’s life has left him with many scars, but nearly all of them are on his back.

The script is perfect, distilled Pratchett throughout, and the games get across the atmosphere of the books extremely well. The 2D animated looks crisp and smooth even today, in a time when everyone was trying very hard to make 3D games that weren’t ugly pieces of crap. While Discworld 2 is hard to find, and even harder to play unless you have an old PC or Playstation lying around (Alas, it was never really popular enough to warrant a PSN re-release), if you can find it, and if you’re a fan of Terry Pratchett, you cannot go wrong with Discworld 2.

*The first strategy guide ever to include footnotes on the cover.

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