Page to Pixel: Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon

Posted: August 22, 2011 in Page to Pixel, PC, Retro
Tags: , , , , ,

Good Drinks, Good Company

It’s hard to describe Spider Robinson’s work to someone who’s never read it. Heck, it’s hard to describe it to someone who has. In spite of this, Robinson and his works are reasonably well known within the sci-fi community for his quirky style and ability to spin larger narratives out of what can appear to be shaggy dog stories told by the patrons of Mike Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon, or various…er, acts indulged in by the customers of Lady Sally McGee’s brothel-of-excellent-repute. Also, there’s a talking German Shepard. I really didn’t know where else to put that one.

Naturally, I’ll offer a word of warning: some of Spider Robinson’s books feature some weird shit.

The core Callahan stories (and by extension the game) are told from the perspective of folk-singer Jake Stonebender, a regular at Callahan’s after a doctor refers him to the place. So it’s kind of like Cheers with an overload of puns, a bent space-time continuum and a talking dog (I’m not gonna let that one go). Or maybe more like the Mos Eisley Cantina with a friendlier bartender and less murderous patrons. I’ll let you be the judge. The cool thing about the game is that it is in general just a few more stories in the Callahan series.

Where everyone telepathically knows your name!

And it all starts with Jake Stonebender (and you, of course, occupying his mind – which Jake is fully aware of), and you have to get his bar tab back by answering some trivia (read: copy protection) questions. Well, actually the intro starts off with the fate of the universe in jeopardy as a crappy eldritch abomination economy is forcing intergalactic downsizing of planets but- *is hit on the back of the head with a sack of potatoes* IT’S THAT KIND OF GAME!

Anyway, after you finish that, the game opens up and you can chat with the various patrons of the bar. Most of them will just waste your time, but some of them offer you information, and subsequently lead you into the various “missions” as I guess you could call them. These are the meat of the game, and the “missions” as I’m going to continue calling them for lack of imagination on my own part, although missions, sorties, these kinds of things don’t really seem appropriate given the laid back, humorous quality the game has (designed by former Sierra designer Josh Mandel, who among other things developed Freddie Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist, contributed to the Space Quest series and voiced King Graham).  So anyway, at the start you can choose one of three…er…trips? Fandangoes? Things. These include getting a vampire back together with his lost love, and helping a time cop save the rainforest (for chocolate!). In the later expeditions you’ll do even more timetraveling (as this is a crosstime saloon and not your run-of-the-mill tavern), as well as saving your unusually garrulous canine buddy from being sliced up and studied by overzealous government scientists. My personal favorite part is the adventure – ah, that is the word! – where you get chewed out by the pilot Guzman for not being who you say you are.

The game is a fairly long and humorous one (and, in the spirit of giving credit where credit is due, I didn’t get to play the game myself and turned to PushingUpRoses’ excellent Lets Play) and lives up to the style and quality of Spider Robinson’s fiction. So it’s not world-shattering or genre-defining like Dune II, but hey – it’s a cool game with a good story and some really funny writing. Next time, I’ll be back with a pair of games based on – well, you’ll see. Until next time, Page-to-Pixelteers (I promise to never use that term again).

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