Ambrosine's Games

14 April 2021

My early computing years were mostly filled with the Amstrad CPC. It was good, but limited to the cassettes I had. I envied the limitless potential of the PC, and its ability to download new software from the Internet.

The first time I had free access to browse the web was in school. We were not supposed to waste their computing resources, but if it was a lunch break, the teachers' eyes were blind. Mostly.

In one particular classroom there was a small network of computers that, for some reason, wasn't locked down. I found I could avoid the Internet filter, download program files and install them. I spent quite a few breaks in that room. My CPC at home was historic even then, and obviously without Internet access, but there I could go anywhere and install anything.

One set of games that I stumbled upon were made by Ambrosine. Using the Kilk 'n' Play toolkit, she'd made a variety of interesting point and click adventures. Sure, they didn't have the artistic qualities of LucasArts games or Sierra titles, but that's the charm. These are homemade bundles of fun, all available for free.

The first game I played was The Will. This is probably the best known game, possibly because it was listed on many download sites. As with most of Amby's games, it has a tongue-in-cheek kind of humour.

You've just inherited a house from a rich relative. Hidden inside are a number of valuable gems, but first things first - how to get into the house? The key you have won't turn the lock - it has rusted shut! And so begins a crazy quest to uncover barely related items, toggle secret switches and find hidden rooms in order to loot the gems.

Screenshot of the living room in The Will.

One adventure, set on Easter Island, sees you trying to find a sacred statue. It's deserted because the islanders fled for superstitious reasons. This one is hard, and I haven't managed to complete it. There are walkthroughs, but that's cheating.

Another game takes place on another island in the Caribbean (islands make good sandboxes!) but it's not quite deserted. It's set in a tourist attraction that's not doing so well. Perhaps their fortunes would change if you found some buried treasure...

The difficulty is somewhere between Lucas and Sierra. In some titles, your character can die - but it won't be for (quite so) petty reasons. You can choose to jump down a cliff face, wade too far into a river, or play with a dangerous creature. The consequence is instant death.

Game over screen in the game Caribbean Treasure.

There are other ways to lose. If you don't collect an essential item before going through a one-way area, you'll be stuck. At least the game is nice enough to tell you of this fact, instead of having you click every pixel or mash all your inventory items together in a fit of desperation.

You won't be able to climb up. Do you have another way to travel?

The Will got a sequel, "The Castle". Unlike the original, this one plays more like Myst. It retains the same charm though, and has a nice art style.

Screenshot of The Will 2's castle foyer.

Apart from The Will II, these games are all 16-bit Windows programs. Some installers try to install a replacement of Windows' VGA driver (ugh). This means they don't run easily on 64-bit Windows, but it can be done with the help of WineVDM. Or Wine itself on UNIXy systems. A virtual machine is also an option.

The games are still available on the web today. Visit Ambrosine's website to find them.

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