If the Daedalus Encounter wasn’t your cup of tea, at least on the PC and the Mac, 1995 would also bring in an amazing alternative from Presto Studios: Buried in Time.
I never got a chance to play the first Journeyman Project, but the sequel hit the series out of the ballpark for a newcomer like me. Set in the distant future, it’s based around ye olde time travel which was developed in the first game by a scientist who feared the upcoming “first contact” with an alien coalition called the Symbiotry who have arrived on Earth to invite the planet as a member.
He was convinced the aliens were up to no good (they were actually innocent) and sought to sabotage the meeting by causing disruptions in the time stream to make Earth unsuitable. Think “Evil Einstein” and that’s what you had to deal with. The good news is that you stopped the misguided scientist and Earth went on to be a part of the Symbiotry heralding a new age.
In the sequel, you’re back as Gage Blackwood – hero of the first game – six months later. Things soon take a turn for the worse when your future self visits you and tells you that time has been altered and that you will be framed for the changes. The TSA, the Temporal Security Agency which monitors time travel and which Gage is a member of, will soon turn against him unless he can fix what was altered sending him off on a journey through time that will take him from the Mayan city of Chichen Itza at its peak to the near future in space outside the wreckage of a titanic space station.
The fantastic story was backed by incredible visuals making it one of the most attractive adventure titles at the time. It also used live action footage of actors against digital backdrops, but only in small parts such as a few story cuts or when a short point had to be made. The world was seen as if through your time suit’s helmet with a large part taken up in the upper half by the visuals and the lower part with the inventory and other controls. It was a nice looking interface that seamlessly blended into the lore of the game.
And there was plenty of lore. An in-game encyclopedia was stuffed with information on the places you’ve gone to and chronicling the history behind each including real-world topics such as Leonardo DaVinci. It was an attractive mix of real facts blended in with the fiction of its own story that helped to make the game stand out and gave each locale its own sense of wonder. I ate that all up as if it wouldn’t end.
The puzzles could be tough and there were many often requiring me to jump from one age to another to find something that I might need to solve something else hundreds of years earlier. Since my suit didn’t have built in thrusters, for example, I had to find something that substituted. Fortunately, I had a tube of compressed, liquid cheese in my inventory which helped to push me across the void leaving a yellow, edible string behind me.
The AI buddy I found in the future and integrates himself into the suit is also one of the best sidekicks in any game alongside Sophia from Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. Arthur’s witty personality and helpful tips made him as indispensable as the interface. He also provided the game’s built-in hint system which you could opt to use if you could stand sacrificing your point total, but his commentary on the different eras gave the story an entirely different layer on top of what it already did well with its characters and environments.
The game was also not shy about ending the game due to death or tampering with the timeline and it gave you plenty of opportunity to do both. When the game ended, it would show a screen with a TSA report explaining how you died alongside a nicely drawn snapshot of the offending moment. Whether it was getting crushed by a cow being thrown over a wall or walking out of an ancient temple to the adoration of the natives who proclaim you a god, there were plenty of ways to fail the game. Sometimes it was just fun to try and fail in epic style to see just what the artists have in mind.
Buried in Time spanned three CDs and had plenty of music and detailed visuals to go with them. It also had a pretty epic ending that tied up the adventure with an unexpected twist or two involving a plot to seize time travel technology from Earth which is apparently the only world to have it. It also wasn’t perfect. The biochip system that it used to switch between functions could be a bit annoying to use, though it wasn’t a game breaker. In the end, it’s one of the best classic adventures to be found for both PC and Machintosh users that made great use of the CD-ROM medium. Just solid, great fun wrapped up in a nicely told story.
It also had a sequel in ’98 which took players to the “legendary” places in the world in a chase after one of the villains in Buried in Time as an alien race threatens to destroy the planet. You’d visit places such as Atlantis and Shangri-la and solve the puzzles in each one. Though it was also a lot of fun and sported an even bigger view of the world around you along with a new story, the puzzles didn’t seem as tough nor did it seem to have much fun with its particular story as Buried in Time did.
It was also the last Journeyman Project game to come out from Presto Studios. Four years later, facing a changing PC market and a declining interest in adventure games, Presto Studios opted to bow out and shutter their doors. It wasn’t bankruptcy that forced their hand. In a rare show of knowing when it was time, Presto chose to shutter their doors before it got to that point.
It’s almost sad to see the ad for Buried in Time. In part, because of the kind of energy that period of time reveled in when it came to the adventure genre and the new medium on which it could be expanded on with the vast ocean of plastic and bits pitted into it. This ad was packed with pictures, flair, and enough info to get those adventurer’s instincts going. It even had a quote from the Wall Street Journal’s Mossberg to convince players that this was brilliant. Or not, depending on what you thought of Mossberg. The great thing is that you can still find it on sites like Good Old Games to find out for yourself.
He was right, though. Buried in Time was an amazing experience.