Old people aren’t very often chosen to be the heroes of video games. I mean, video games need athletic heroes, not bald people with walking sticks. The elderly can’t pull-on
powersuits and fly through space shooting aliens, they can’t leap from platform to platform dodging the evil wibbly-wobbly sprites and they’re not especially good at diving around a room with a gun in each hand whilst the player curses the rubbish camera. Well, they can do all of these things but you suspect their doctor would tut at them. And that they’d die.
This 1992 Atari ST indie game, though, features an old man as its main protagonist. It’s called Grandad: Quest for the Holey Vest and as the name more than suggests it’s about an old bloke looking for his missing vest. Let’s get that out of the way first of all: this is not a game with a thunderously exciting plot but then, as I’ll bang on about to anyone who’ll listen, plots are usually irrelevant to gameplay which is why I get so annoyed when a lot of modern reviewers treat the “story” like it’s as important as the action in a shoot-em-up. But I digress.
Grandad is, basically, a very traditional graphic adventure. The player controls Grandad, in his electric wheelchair (which appears to have a limited battery life making this a race – if you can call it that – against time), as he rolls around his house and the surrounding gardens solving puzzles and being mean to kids. Whilst moving the old grouch is all done by joystick, the commands which allow him to interact with his environment (look, use, and suchlike) are all accessed via a drop down menu. So Grandad might examine a bit of wall and see a key sticking out but he can’t reach it because he’s too old so he has to use the bit of wire he found in the garden to hook it out and then he can open a door leading to more of the house. It’s these sorts of puzzles we’re talking about.
Despite being, essentially, an extremely simple adventure game with animated (well, slightly animated) graphics and having none of the richness and depth of something like Beneath A Steel Sky this is fairly engaging to play. Like all of these types of games, there’s something undeniably satisfying about solving the puzzles and there’s a desire to see more albeit not all that much: the game’s shameless mundanity means that it lacks the fascination that superior titles do – it’s not so exciting when the new room you’ve accessed isn’t a glittering diamond cave but some old git’s kitchen. Nonetheless, for an indie title this isn’t too bad. The graphics are pretty good and grandad himself manages to convey character even if it’s just that of a grumpy old fogie in a wheelchair and the puzzles are generally logical without being insultingly easy. This isn’t worth disengaging yourself from superb commercial graphic adventures like Sam and Max or Monkey Island (doubtless being ignored in a charity shop near you) for but if you’ve got a spare couple of hours you might like to try spending it with Grandad. Just don’t expect to be bowled-over.
As those of you who peer carefully at the screenshots might have noticed from the title screen up at the very top-right of the article there, this game seems to have been some sort of shareware/licenseware scheme whereby only a portion of the game was playable from the start with the player needing to enter a license key to access a lift and explore further reaches of Grandad’s house (I’ve not got this far yet because I’m rubbish). Where you’d get this I’ve no idea; perhaps the programmer is still selling it or perhaps it’s been released somewhere in full as freeware. Whatever, I’ll try and find out and unpdate accordingly.