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This week's number one entry provided by PC adventure enthusiast Charlie Barratt.
So far, the games in this countdown have been relatively subtle with their environmental message. You might replenish a forest, grow a garden or heal a “fertile ground,” but no literal connection is made between fixing the virtual world and cleaning up your own.
EcoQuest, a point-and-click PC adventure game from 1991, is completely the opposite. Although designed by the same folks who made escapist fare like King’s Quest, Space Quest and Gabriel Knight, EcoQuest was intended as an educational tool for kids. The box even included a promise to parents:
Clearly, this game does not have the time or patience for symbolism. Almost every last element, in fact, is programmed to pummel you with environmental guilt. To get a grasp of just how serious this game is about saving the world, check out the very first screen:
1) The protagonist, Adam. Adam Greene.
2) The hero’s marine biologist father, nobly gazing across the oceans he plans to save today.
3) A recycling bin. You’ll get extra points for tossing in the nearby aluminum can, and the game actually includes a “recycle” command cursor in addition to the usual “walk,” “talk,” and “look.”
4) A bookshelf featuring titles such as “The Book of Whales,” “Vegetarian Macrobiotic Cooking,” and - no joke - “55 Fun Ways a Kid Can Make a World of Difference.”
5) A goddamn earth rug. You know, in case the rest wasn’t obvious enough.
6) A polluted coral reef, oil-soaked seagull and dehydrated gerbil, all of which Adam will rescue in the next five minutes.
Over the remainder of the game, you’ll befriend a talking dolphin, discover an underwater city of friendly fish and search for a benevolent whale king… as well as clear cruise ship garbage, unclog a turtle’s throat and free blowfish from discarded plastic bags. You’ll also enjoy dialogue like this:
As much as we poke fun at its heavy-handedness, though, EcoQuest is a good game with a good heart and good intentions. Really, how can you fault a title that forgoes wildly imaginative and fictional settings to focus solely on teaching people how to preserve their own planet? This is as green as gaming gets.
Environment saved: Ours.
Sure. Why not. He’s Captain Planet and he had an NES game. Might as well close it all out with a screen from a shitty game none of us even bothered with. The power is… yours?
But hey, you know what’s remotely interesting? One of Planet’s recurring villains was named Duke Nukem, and was part of the show’s cast a full year before the first side-scrolling Duke Nukem arrived on PCs.
Above: Can you tell the difference?!?
Now that we’re at the end of the list, we can address two games that, on the surface, should have been included (but weren’t). First is Pikmin, because all you’re doing is rebuilding a rocket and telling a bunch of plants what to do, and the second is Ecco the Dolphin, because that asshole only cares about his pod and would kill you and your family in a heartbeat.
He’s waiting us out.
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