Thursday, August 6, 2015

Intermission: Pathways into Darkness #1

Commence Intermission


Howdy folks.  I have returned from my travels to the ancestral corn fields of my youth.  I know you all thirst for more Sether in the Morff.  Like ravenous hounds you bay and froth beneath my chamber window, feverishly awaiting the scraps I deign to cast you, you filthy freeloaders.  

Well, you must wait some more!  I refuse to indulge in your base thirsts for the zenith of online entertainment content.  Instead, we're going to waste some time in an Intermission of sorts, where I share with you some other comics, unrelated to SITM but similarly ancient in their byzantine grandeur. 

I present to you:

Pathways into Darkness

Cover Page

No stick figures beyond this point.
"What the hell is this nonsense?" you may ask yourself.  Well, sit back and allow me to explain.

When I was a kid, we had a sick-nasty Mac LC II, which was pretty much the greatest computer ever made.  I wasted countless hours on that poor machine, faffing around with Kid Pix like a champion.  I even did some of my earliest school essays on that Exalted computer, a talent that would blossom into my single greatest academic strength in the dark years to come.

Among the wonders on that computer was a demo for a game called 'Pathways into Darkness.'  It was one of the first games made by Bungie, the famed folks behind the popular Halo series.  I was too chicken-shit to play it, but I have fond memories of watching my dad play it, hovering over his shoulder and breathing germs into his ear, since I was a filthy disease-ridden child.  Eventually he purchased the full version of the game, but it proved too difficult for him to advance very far, and I was far too inept and terrified of it to have any chance of surpassing his progress.

Instead of playing it, I poured over the instruction manual and box art, absorbing every bit of information I could.  I thought it was the coolest thing ever, navigating 3D hallways and shooting weird monsters and talking to dead Nazis.  Yes, you could talk to dead Nazis in this game, using a magic crystal.  Fucking look it up.

Such was my love of this game that I had to create a comic book version of it.  I planned on making one issue for every level of the game, but since I myself could never get farther than the second level, my efforts quickly proved futile.  

This is the first of two issues.  I apologize to Bungie for desecrating the memory of this good game.  I believe it is now a free download; I wound up playing through it, and beating it, in college, so I theoretically could go back and complete this comic book endeavor.  Anybody at Bungie want to pay me?  A custom exotic weapon in Destiny would suffice.

Page 1

Mushroom cloud #486
This issue is entitled 'Ground Floor,' which was the first level of the game.  What frustrates me about his page is that I was basically pulling this exposition straight from the instruction manual, and I STILL SPELLED STUFF WRONG.  I had a reference right there!  God dammit, what the hell was wrong with me?

Again, I can't really date this comic accurately.  I'm guessing I made it circa 1995-6.  Pathways had been out for a while (it came out in 1993), so I know I had to be somewhat older than that, as I didn't get into comic book production until I was around seven or eight years old.

Anyway, the premise of the game is that a half-dead, sleeping alien god-thing crashes into the Yucatan Peninsula.  An alien race warns humanity that the thing is going to wake up and destroy the world.  They are on their way to help us, but it will take them a long time to reach Earth; the alien god will wake up well before they arrive. Thus, they instruct us to 'stun' the alien god with a nuclear weapon, which should give us enough time to hold out for the benevolent aliens to reach us and get rid of the alien god-entity once and for all.

Page 2

US Military, or Satan worshipers?
More info dump, explaining what I just told you but in half-comprehensible child-scribbling.

So yeah, a strange pyramid appears in the jungle where the alien god crashed into the planet.  The U.S. military dispatches a special team to go as deep as they can into the pyramid, where they will arm a nuclear bomb and escape.  

Our protagonist seems to be having some parachute trouble as he jumps out of the plane...

Page 3

Yellow is still flesh color... 
You (the protagonist) somehow survive the botched aerial insertion, but you wind up separated from the rest of your team.  

What was cool about this game was that there was a real-time... time... element.  You only had a certain amount of time before the alien god woke up (a little over 20 hours, if I recall).  For most of the game, the only way to heal was to sleep, which ate up precious hours; take too long, and the world ends.  

Page 4

So begins my love affair with inventory management.
Our hero takes stock of his meager supplies.  The game throws you into this mess with basically nothing but a knife, a watch, and a flashlight.  Fun fact: the flashlight could run out of batteries!  Considering the entire game takes place in a dark, spooky pyramid, you could be extra-screwed if you took too long.  Also, even though you start the game with a pistol, you never find ammo for it, ever. It's just Bungie trolling you.

Page 5

Nostalgia is a powerful drug.
This is where the game actually begins.  Welcome to the jungle, bitches.

Page 6

Nazis improve any video game.
After examining a weird rune on the floor, our hero comes across the ancient corpse of a Nazi soldier.  Most of your weapons in the early part of the game are scavenged from these dead Nazis, who sent an expedition to the pyramid to supposedly find some sort of secret weapon to use against the Allies.  

Eventually you find a magic crystal that lets you speak with the dead.  You could use it on the Nazi corpses, and a little text box would appear, where you could ask them questions.  It was really cool.  You could ask them what their name was, if they knew of secret passages or supplies, information about the enemies, etc.  Very cool for its time.

Page 7

Get strapped. 
For the first part of the game, you use crappy old Nazi guns.  Hooray!  Ammo conservation was a very important skill in this game; there's certainly not enough ammo to kill everything in the game, so you have to learn when to run and hide.  In the early part of the game, it's actually a good idea to use your knife on the weakest enemies to save bullets.

Page 8

I still don't know hot to spell 'continued.' 
Rounding a corner, our hero encounters his first monster!  These things were called 'Headless.'  Basically a mouth with a giant tongue on a pair of legs.  They made really weird sounds.  

That's where we must end this trip down memory lane, for now.  Tomorrow: the final installment of Pathways into Darkness!  

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