Category Archives: Retro Gaming

Jim Lawrence’s Bibliography

In the next couple of weeks, over on The Adventure Gamer, I will be playing Seastalker. I mentioned this earlier in my review of a Hardy Boys mystery, and I am presently working my way through stories featuring Tom Swift, Jr. and Nancy Drew. All of these young-adult novels were written by Jim Lawrence, but you would never know it from their covers. Jim was a dedicated ghostwriter, creating fiction that he would never get credit for. Nonetheless, I have become quite interested in his history and have started to pull together a bibliography of his books based on various sources that I found online. This is most likely not a complete list. This is made more complicated by the fact that there are at least three authors named Jim (or James) Lawrence, including one artist who worked in comics. Trying to separate out which Mr. Lawrence wrote what has been quite a challenge!

That’s where you come in. Do you know of any additional works by Jim Lawrence? Do you have details of specific radio play scripts that he wrote? If so, please drop me a note below. For everyone else, here is the list that I have gathered so far:

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“The Ghost at Skeleton Rock” by Jim Lawrence (1957)

This week, at approaching four decades old, I read my first Hardy Boys book. In specific, I read the thirty-seventh Hardy Boys book, The Ghost at Skeleton Rock, ghost-written by Jim Lawrence. It’s a strange place to start, but my interest is not with the Hardy Boys in general (although I find the whole industry that produces these serial books fascinating), but rather with the author, the late Jim Lawrence. Over on The Adventure Gamer, I have been slowly working my way through all of the games created by Infocom. In a few weeks, I’ll start playing Seastalker, the twelfth adventure, and the first written by the pair of Stu Galley and Jim Lawrence. The game is Infocom’s first “juvenile” game and they brought on board a master of juvenile fiction to help script it. By the 1980s, Jim had already proven himself a master of juvenile fiction across radio, newspaper comics, and books– most of the latter ghostwritten for the Stratemeyer Syndicate. To ensure I approached his game with an understanding of the genre, I committed myself to reading several of Jim’s original books. This is my first.

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Infocom’s The Witness (1983)

Not too long ago, I took a look at Deadline, Infocom’s first adventure game mystery as a side-story to the marathon that I’m currently writing for The Adventure Gamer. It was a genre-buster, proving once and for all that great adventures could be found in many genres. I am still slowly winding my way through early Infocom classics and I have finally reached Deadline’s pseudo-sequel: 1983’s The Witness. Tucked away in the middle of a run of science fiction adventures (after Starcross and Suspended but before Planetfall), it abandoned the contemporary setting of its predecessor for the hard-boiled detectives of the 1930s. Even though my colleague Ilmari already reviewed this game, I could not resist poking my head in to get the full Infocom experience.

While Deadline has been designed by Mark Blanc, one of the Infocom founders and co-writer on the Zork series, he did not have time to work on the sequel. Instead, he provided some aspects of the basic scenario to design-newcomer Stu Galley. Stu had been an Infocom founder, but he worked on the business side rather than the creative one. Nonetheless, Marc had too much on his plate and Stu was convinced to headline the game. Even from the start it is different than what came before: this time, the crime has not been committed yet. We’re going to witness the crime (hence, the title) and have twelve hours to figure out what really happened. Let’s play!

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Infocom’s Deadline (1982)

Most of my blogging time these days is over on The Adventure Gamer where I am currently working on a marathon of Zork-related games by Infocom. I’ve recently completed and reviewed mainframe Zork (also known as Dungeon), Zork I, and Zork II and am about to start playing 1982’s Zork III. (You can find a complete index of my TAG contributions here.) Between the second and third Zork title, Infocom completed a monumental chapter in the history of computer games: Deadline, one of the first mystery games and one of the first games that could rightfully use the label “interactive fiction”. Previous “mystery” games such as Sierra’s Mystery House (another game I reviewed for TAG) were treasure hunts with mystery elements; finally we had a game that could stand beside the works of Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

As my colleague on TAG, Ilmari, already reviewed Deadline (see his review here), I did not want to step on his toes by doing another official review there. And yet, I wanted the experience of playing the game and documenting my thoughts as I did. That leads us to this special bonus post: my play and review of Deadline here while I work on Zork III over there. I haven’t read Ilmari’s review so I am coming into this game completely unspoiled, except that I played a bit of it (and didn’t understand it very well) when I was a kid. Let’s play!

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Questprobe Featuring Spider-Man (1984)

Over at The Adventure Gamer, I just completed my most recent series on Questprobe Featuring Spider-Man (1984), an early Marvel adventure game by Scott Adams and Adventure International. It’s a fantastic look at mid-80s adventure gaming and the Marvel universe and well worth a play today.

More generally, yes. I have been away. My guest work on “The Adventure Gamer” has consumed all of my free cycles. I am still committed to continuing Doctor Who and Disney posts, although at a reduced frequency depending on my work elsewhere. In the meantime, I will be sure to post here as I complete TAG games from this point so this blog isn’t a complete ghost town.

Mystery House (1980)

The first post for my second game has just gone up on The Adventure Gamer, “Mystery House“. This 1980 game for the Apple ][ is considered the first “graphical adventure” game ever made, ushering in an entire genre of games which peaked in the 90s per persists to this day. The second and final post will go out next week. Meanwhile, I have completed several more for “Operation Stealth”. All of my “The Adventure Gamer” posts are now being linked off the menu above. Regular updates on this blog, as well as Coat of Many Colors, will resume in December.

Operation Stealth (1990)

One of my favorite blogs has been The Adventure Gamer, written by “Trickster”. It is a travelogue of sorts, a series of posts as he played through forty-five classic adventure games. Recently, Trickster has stepped down and turned over the keys to the blog to his fans and community. In the spirit of keeping a blog I love running, I have volunteered to contribute a series of posts on Operation Stealth (also known as James Bond: The Stealth Affair), a 1990 adventure game by Delphine Software. You can find my first post here: Real Spies Fly Coach.

Wizardry: Proving Ground of the Mad Overlord (1981)

In the beginning, there was Wizardry. No, not the very beginning because someone had to come around and invent the Apple ][ first, but when it comes to home computer role-playing games, it is difficult to get older than the first Wizardry game. Richard Garriott had not written Akalabeth, the precursor to Ultima. Might and Magic and The Bard’s Tale were both half a decade in the future. No, if you wanted to find a multi-character dungeon crawl, you were stuck with Wizardry.

The amazing thing is, it has aged pretty well. It’s damned difficult, but at this point not impossible. I have played through the first level (of ten, I believe); read on for my thoughts so far.

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Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (1997)

2294_frontThis is one of the games that made my childhood. I loved the Castlevania series, even if it was just too difficult. The first Castlevania, for the NES, was a source of perpetual frustration – I can’t count how many times i made it to Frankenstein before getting killed over and over again. Castlevania II: Belmont’s Quest was a funny RPG and I have some vague memories of getting to the end of it with the help of a strategy guide. Castlevanis III was a milestone with new characters, an assortment of possible paths to complete the game, and deployability. Castlevania IV, for the SNES, was a graphical update – but never really sang with me.

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