My grandmother was an engineer for Southern Bell (a predecessor of Bellsouth/ATT). My mother worked as a Help Desk operator for IBM for several years. So, I come by a love of computers honestly. However, for the first few years of my gaming life I only operated on a SNES, the controller like an extension of my short, chubby fingers. Watching certain children now I can believe that I was a better gamer when I was small. The reflexes are faster, the mind willing to consider so many possibilities in solving puzzles, the determination like some terrible fixation. Even still, it was a whole new world when we finally got our own PC and I was allowed to navigate the digital world with mouse and keyboard.
While my aunt immediately took to The Sims, a game I would eventually racked up hundreds of hours on, I fell into the world of side-scrolling adventure games. The one that solidified my future as a PC gamer was Torin’s Passage.
Designed by Al Lowe, creator of the Leisure Suit Larry games, and released by Sierra On-Line in 1995 Torin’s Passage is a mostly kid-friendly point-and-clicker that stars Torin and his pet/friend/sidekick Boogle. To imagine Boogle, think purple nonverbal Jake the Dog. The game begins with an evil wizard trying to kill Torin and his parents, but the infant Torin is saved by his nurse, who flees the castle with him.
In the present, Torin is a young man, disappointing his adoptive father with his childish antics. He’s sent to town on errands, muttering to himself, “This isn’t what I want in life. I should be a hero. Heroes don’t run errands.”
Then these same farming parents are abducted, after being encased in crystal, and Torin rushes to their aid. The very evil dude who was featured in the first cutscene, and now just happens to be hanging around the farm, tells Torin that is must have been Lycentia, evil sorceress, who has been banished to the underrealms.
Thus begins Torin’s passage through the layers of his world on an epic quest to save his parents. Be careful what you wish for Torin, being a hero may not be everything you wished for.
Between each layer of the earth, or each chapter of the story, more flashbacks are revealed about Torin’s true identity (he’s a prince), and about Lycentia’s identity (she’s not an evil sorceress). The game is full of humor for kids and jokes meant for the adults playing with them. Lowe has stated that he created the game to be played by parent and child, and so there are bits for both of them. I remember laughing a lot while playing this game in Elementary school, and I still laugh now when I replay it.
Most of the comedy comes in the form of somewhat irritating dynamic duos. First there’s a pair of slugs that are some real jokers, later there are an unhappily married royal couple, followed by vultures, followed by skunks, and on and on.
The gameplay is very simple in many ways, after all it’s a point-and-click game, but the puzzles can be tricky. There are a few even now that I can’t really make much sense of, and as a child I found them infuriating. As the game progresses you pick up a lot of items that stay always in your immediate view, as the inventory is a fixed component of the screen.
Eventually I made it to the center of the earth. I had solved puzzles using both Torin’s charm and strength, and Boogle’s ability to turn into a variety of items. Also by begging my mom to help me when I got really stuck. A couple of the puzzles depend on your talent at arranging tones and pitches, something I am truly terrible at. I also died a thousand times, but the game is very forgiving, as it’s aimed at children.
The point is, I made it through eventually, and now every few years I do it again. I find it incredibly replayable, even though it’s obviously dated the humor is bizarre, the characters are varied, and some of the puzzles still take me a few minutes to figure it out. It fed my love for dad jokes and I look forward to one day playing it with my youngest brother.