Designed by Brian Moriarty, who also developed another game which almost made this list called Trinity, Loom tells the story of Bobbin Threadbare of the Weavers.
In a fantasy world where people have been divided into clans based on their occupations and where magic and mystery are common place, Bobbin is abandoned and thinks of himself as the last of the Weavers – a society of tailors-turned-magicians who use music to weave their will into reality. The young boy whose face is perpetually shrouded in shadow (looking a Weaver in the eye causes instant death) does what all other young boys would do in that scenario – he sets off in search of his mother.
What sets Loom apart from other games of the time and pretty much every game since is the whimsical interface – Bobbin needs a distaff (literally, an oak rod) to interact with the world. This distaff appears at the bottom of the screen and replaces the Look, Use, etc buttons of games like Day of The Tentacle and Sam and Max: Hit the Road. Players then get a chance to explore the world and learn magical music, mimicking it on the staff to create bizarre and wonderful verbs which range from “Open/Close” and “Dye/Bleach” to “Transcend” and “Temblor”.
Loom was whimsical and hilarious all in one stroke
The game is critically flawed in that you’ll need a pen and paper if you want to possibly remember the twenty or so different melodies needed to play, but it shouldn’t stop anyone from trying. The game can be found littering most Abandonware sites even though the legality of such a status is disputed and can’t be encouraged. Just like Monkey Island and all the other SCUMM engine games, Loom emulates perfectly with the help of ScummVM and plays like a fanciful, whimsical game that’s never especially challenging, but remains interesting enough to warrant a look from anyone with a musical bent.
The Dark Eye – 1995
Status: Abandonware, uncommon.
OK, now we’re getting a bit more obscure and down into the depths of forgotten computer games. Nethack and Loom are games that some serious gamers may have heard a bit about – The Dark Eye probably isn’t.
A horror-adventure game at its core, The Dark Eye is interactive storytelling in the most disturbing form imaginable. The game fuses together a variety of short stories and art styles, including clay model animations, FMVs and hand-drawn animations, to create some of the most uncomfortably memorable sequences in gaming history.
The Dark Eye mixed and matched animation and art styles to greatly disturbing effects
Plot-wise The Dark Eye draws on the work of Edgar Allen Poe and has the character exploring a barren house and the twisted, possibly incestuous relationships going on inside. The main narrative is an original story but in between that, the player has to explore a handful of tales which are directly adapted from Poe’s back catalogue; The Tell-Tale Heart, The Cask of Amontillado and Berenice. Players are forced through each story in a specific sequence, unable to deviate from the plot overly thanks to a gameplay style akin to Myst.
The Dark Eye gets really twisted however when you realise how the game is actually trying to make you uncomfortable by using the medium of computer games to create a style that is always vaguely repulsive. Players progress through each of Poe’s stories twice - first as the victim, then again as the murderer.
Imagine it as a gameplay element in the famous Cask of Amontillado – first you play as the victim, terrified as you are chained to a wall and buried alive in an underground cavern. Then, after a short pause, you play through as the culprit and take a perverse enjoyment in the event as the gameplay finds ways to make the murder fun.
The Dark Eye is undoubtedly the most difficult game on this list to play and the Myst-like interface only really invites those with a passion for gaming. That said, the game is definitely worth a look from those who want to see how gaming can be used as emotional powerful artform towards a negative end. If that sounds too pretentious for your tastes though then you may just want to walk on by.