It Came From the Desert

Title           It Came From the Desert
Game Type       Adventure
Company         Cinemaware
Players         1
HD Installable  Yes
Compatibility   All
Submission      Stacia Kissick

It's June 1, 1951, and you're a geologist investigating a meteor strike in
a small desert town. You've lived in the town -- a quaint dot on the map
called Lizard Breath -- for a month, and now you're being told that some
very odd things are happening, not least of which is the headless cow over
at J.D.'s farm.

Based loosely on dozens of 1950s American sci fi thrillers, especially the
1954 mutant-ant classic "Them!", ICFtD challenges both your mind and your
might. When you boot up the game, a gorgeous red-orange desert panorama
scrolls by as a narrator warns that, because man has meddled where he
should not have, this desert will become living proof that the Biblical
prophesy "the meek shall inherit the earth" is about to come true.

Your goal once the game starts is to discover the source of all the
strange occurances happening in Lizard Breath. Starting out in your small
home, you are given text that describes the scene. Geez, an old geezer who
collects rock samples for you, stops by with some new material from the
meteor impact site. Soon after, your occasional sidekick Biff drops by as
well. You get to choose what you want to do by selecting an option on the
multiple choice screens that pop up.

There are several buildings in town, as well as farms, mines, an airport,
and even a drive-in theatre. To get to the map, select "go to map" at one
of the pop-up screens. A solid knowledge of the map will help you
greatly, as time ticks away quickly at one minute per second of real time.
The time and date appear in the upper corner of the town map. As you use
the joystick to move around, each building you point to will be labelled,
and the ETA to get there shown.

Once you investigate, you soon realize there are large, mutant ants
roaming around the outskirts of town. These ants are dangerous, and you
must fight them to survive. Sure, you're just a geologist, but you're a
well-armed geologist, equipped with a handgun and an apparently infinite
amount of grenades. Not only do you fight the terrifying ants on the
ground, but in the air as well;  the airplane at the airport contains
several canisters of some serious bug spray. Knowledge of the movie
"Them!" will help you kill the ants, but if you haven't seen the movie,
don't despair -- you get hints when talking to the townsfolk.

While play might seem limited at first, there are dozens (possibly
hundreds) of variations in the game, depending on the choices you make.
Not only that, but there are many opportunities to find yourself in a
fight, either with the ants, or with some of the not-so-friendly folk of
Lizard Breath. You can wind up in a knife fight, or being chased across
the desert by several hundred giant ants, or even playing chicken on the
highway with the local greaser punks.

If you get injured, you'll wake up in the hospital with a gorgeous, buxom
blonde nurse standing at the foot of your bed. Time is important in
ICFtD, so you have the option to try and escape from the hospital instead
of wasting two days in bed. If you choose to try and escape, play
switches to an overhead view of the hospital floor you are on. But be
careful -- the moment a nurse or doctor (even if they're off-screen) sees
you out of bed, they'll shout, "There he is!" and begin chasing you.
Once caught, you have no choice but to stay in hospital for two days.

Ultimately, you'll need to present several items of evidence to the mayor
of Lizard Breath to convince him of the seriousness of the ant situation.
Visit everyone in town to get hints about where to go and what to do. It
might not hurt to sketch a map of the town so you can select your
destination more quickly, saving time.

ICFtD has some beautiful graphics, and although they are sometimes rather
limited, the characters and color scheme quickly transport you back to
1950s America. The music is well-done, especially the spooky 1950s sci fi
mood music that accompanies your adventure through town. The plot is
elaborate and allows for many pleasant distractions, which won't help you
win the game, but will still make playing worthwhile. And for those who
like to fight rather than think, there's plenty of things to kill.

This is not to say that there are not some problems with ICFtD. When
travelling from one place to another, the ETA is often more than 30
minutes, even if the building is quite close to the one you are currently
in. You travel by car, and should be able to get to most destinations
quickly; the town is simply not spread out that much. Another problem is
disk swapping. For anyone with only one floppy drive, the amount of disk
changing is excessive. (I can only assume that two drives would decrease
the need for switching disks.) The game can however be installed to the
hard drive, which increases playability dramatically.

Despite the floppy drawback, It Came From the Desert is easily one of
Cinemaware's finest games, lovely to look at and a lot of fun to play.

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