Imagine a call to hard-rock arms, something like – “Every one of us has heard the call, brothers of true metal, proud and standing tall. We know the power within us has brought us to this hall. There’s magic in the metal, there’s magic in us all. Heavy metal!” So sang Manowar in the 1992 battle charge that was Metal Warriors, and as self-identified brothers of true metal ourselves, we can only agree to such a poetic and damn-right correct attitude.
Picture the unapologetically testosterone-drenched lyric being hewn from its molten concept into a game by the mighty changing hammers of a man who has crafted some of the most worshipped titles of all time – Tim Shafer – and then turn the results up to eleven. But before that, and many other cunning references to the Lore of Rock, you’d better get ready to understand who Tim is, and why we haven’t even bothered to mention Jack Black in the first paragraph.
So, Jack Black is adding his excitable puppy of heavy metal act to what many are calling an action adventure game in which roadie Eddie Riggs is transported back in time to the volcanic age of the birth of heavy metal where much hilarity, violence, and metal-shaped Jack Blackness ensues. Such a set-up is irrelevant, of course. Even if the game was called ‘Coldplay’, and it starred a 3D model of Chris Martin, had the player doing very Coldplay things, like getting up early on a Sunday so he could get to Ikea before the rush, with Yellow as the only music that’s played on a loop as polyphonic ringtones, but with Martin’s voice in hatefully whining high fidelity, we’d be no less pumped. It’s all because of Shafer, bloody wonderful Shafer, and if he were producing a game that quite literally spat digested Coldplay CDs in our face we’d be waiting hungrily, open mouthed with stomach grumbling.
Tim Shafer is the guy who was given writing and programming duties late into the development on what was to be a dry LucasArts adventure game that took pirates seriously. The result was The Secret of Monkey Island (1990), a game so intelligently and down-right dimly hilarious that few other adventure games have ever come close to the sheer white heat of its hilarity. And those that did were handled by Tim Shafer too. Monkey Island 2: Le Chuck’s Revenge (1991), Day of the Tentacle (1993), Full Throttle (1995), and Grim Fandango (1998) all followed with similar idiosyncratic style and all can be classed as the sort of games you don’t see much anymore, but really wish that you did.
By the late 90s the confused ass had fallen out of the PC point-and-click adventure market, mainly because the other people who made point-and-click adventures had started to focus almost entirely on the sort of obtuse and unreasoned puzzles that made The Secret of Monkey Island such a touchstone of comic brilliance while forgetting to make finding object A and using it with object B in any way, shape or form, amusing.