"Jatte whacks Salaman. AIIYEEEEE!!! Salaman turns his toes up to the daisies." Ah, good times. This review is the first entry in a series of "Shafty's Games You Should Have Played."
The year was... 1982. Music was mostly crappy, the popular fashion of the time sucked big ass, a bunch of stupid people were everywhere and most of the Pluh.com readership wasn't even a gleam in its respective fathers' eyes. I'm sure there was a bunch of other nostalgic stuff going on that I just don't care to research or describe. All of that junk is irrelevant; 1982 is known as...
The Year of the Shafty Family Computer.
I still remember fondly the day my father first brought home our beloved Apple II computer. We hadn't the foggiest idea what it was supposed to do, although it did play this swell text adventure game named Zork. Naturally, I think the computer was intended to assist my parents with home economics or some crap. Instead, it became the source of all entertainment for the three kids. We waited until my father left for work, and then delighted in instructing Zork to do horrendous, foul, profane and suicidal deeds. Then came the arguments about whose turn it was, or how long each of us got to play... leading to the invariable fights, in turn leading to punishments that were ignored, etc.
It should come as no surprise that, for every one starving software developer, there are a thousand well-fed kids desperately trying to freely distribute the fruits of his efforts. Thus, following the advent of "cracking," the proliferation of crackers, and the subsequent release of Copy II Plus (a program designed to copy despite most copy protections which--ironically enough--was freely distributed in violation of its copyright), we kids were able to play far more games than the puny contents of piggy banks would have afforded. It was through this "try before you buy" system that I first obtained a copy of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.
As best I can remember, Ali Baba was the first graphics-based RPG I had ever played. And, to be honest, the graphics weren't much, particularly when compared to Wizardry or Ultima II, two other RPGs that were both also released in 1982. Both of those were arguably better than Ali Baba. So why am I stamping Ali Baba as one of "Shafty's Games You Should Have Played," rather than one of those two? Well, several reasons. First, it's next-to-impossible to find a copy of Ultima II that will run on your computers in a playable fashion, even with MoSlo. Second, you've probably already heard of Wizardry or Ultima II, and what's the point of reviewing a game that most already know about? Third, Ali Baba was the first RPG to offer true multiplayer support, an MMRPG without the "O." Finally, it's my damn review, not yours.
By way of plot, you are Ali Baba... until you realize how badly Ali Baba sucks, and you switch to another character after dying for the umpteenth time. The Sultan gives you a quest to rescue his daughter, the Princess Buddir, from the Forty Thieves and stash her in the house of Ali Baba where her enemies will not think to look. Never mind that the Forty Thieves might think to look for her in the home of her rescuer. And, oh yeah, Ali Baba's home is RIGHT NEXT DOOR to the Sultan's palace. Yeah, that hideout will be unguessable and impenetrable.
So you choose--for the promises of fame and fortune--to accept the quest. Or you could just kill the Sultan and one of his two guards--the other won't move from his assigned post even after you've dispatched his master--and just steal the reward money from the vault behind the Sultan's throne. In retrospect, that would really be a whole lot easier than undergoing the quest. Personally, I think it better to kill the Sultan, raid his vault, use the money to equip yourself, and rescue the Princess anyway. Because, hey, anyone named Buddir just HAS to be a pixelated hottie with boobays, and you might just get some Arabian lovin' before the grateful-to-be-rescued Princess finds out you kind of murdered her father and pilfered her inheritance.
The game is remarkably non-linear. Go anywhere you please. You proceed as in any other RPG, crusing the world, fighting animals, monsters and thieves, and get occasional puzzles to solve and clues about where the princess is. You can also rescue other hostages who can join your little band of adventurers, although most of them (such as Abdallah) absolutely suck.
I confess that I have not read any of the stories about the legendary Ali Baba. There was also a movie in the 1940s called "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" but, again, I admit that I do not think it necessary for me to suffer through this movie to opine that this game has very, very little to do with the original Ali Baba legend. That is, unless these legends also touch on such commonplace Arabian icons as dwarves, elves, halflings, unicorns, enchanted swords, Dr. Who (WTF?), Greek mytholoical characters, characters of the Zodiac, and so on. So, other than inclusion of the Forty Thieves and others of the isolated characters from the Ali Baba legends, this game really is no different than your usual RPG. I guess they named a few characters after some of the Ali Baba stories, like Scheherazade and Jatte (one of the Sultan's guards, who is now a dwarf for some reason). Otherwise, you can choose to play characters of the human, dwarf, elf and halfling races. Each of these races is pictured by a different icon, to wit:
Very nice. Humans like Ali Baba--as in other RPGs--are essentially average characters. Dwarves are strong but slow, elves weak but fast, and halflings weak-armed but blessed with good health. In truth, dwarves are clearly the superior race in this game. They're terrific fighters, can take a pretty solid beating, and their only drawback is that they can't move quite as fast. Since most of the enemies will come to you for a fight, this weakness really doesn't mean that much. Sure enough, when they get loaded down, the dwarves ain't going to move very much; however, the rest of your weak-ass party will wait for you because they sure as hell don't want to enter a tough fight without you.
There are also minor differences among characters of the same race; while Ali Baba is a weakling, there are other humans who can hold their own. Likewise, while they're little and stupid-looking, halflings Stilbo and Merryweather (nice name, fag) are pretty decent in a fight. Still, none measure up to...
The mighty Jatte.
He pwns you, bitch. The only reason Jatte needs anybody else is to carry the booty that he gets after destroying and maiming any monsters you face. Still--don't get any ideas about spending any of Jatte's money at the trading post; Ali Baba allows for players to attack and kill each other. Sweeeeeeeee-et.
As evidence of Jatte's manliness, and Ali Baba's suckiness, it took only one hit for Jatte to turn Ali Baba's toes up to the daisies. In case you hadn't figured it out already:
This is what makes Ali Baba a classic--the ability to play multiplayer and to kill other players who (a) get in the way, (b) loot the corpses that are rightfully yours, or (c) just annoy the piss out of you. You can add dozens of other characters from all four races to the game, and every character gets to take his own turn. That option is also available if you run across the occasional tiger, enchanted sword, Taurus, or cavebear and you need a little extra help in taking 'em down--bring in a few extra chars, do your dirty sinful business, and "retire" the new characters away until you need them at a later time.
The sound... well, at least it's unoffensive, if not helpful. There's an occasional Arabian-style jingle whenever you come across a rune, or when you kill or are killed. Otherwise, there's a beep with every move you make, and a remarkably annoying series of beeps whenever you've done significant damage to your opponent. "Ali Baba pokes Barn Owl" won't offer much more than a beep, but "Jatte whomps on Ibn Nazar" will set the computer's speakers off and, if you're lucky, Ibn Nazar may offer the oh-so-rare-but-greatly-appreciated line "Oh shit" right before he dies. That was a huge accomplishment for a 7-year-old: instead of telling Zork to eat shit (getting a stern warning in response), here you can actually make the computer curse. WHEE fun!
|Plot/Gameplay||Still fun 22 years later!||5|
|Graphics||Choplifter came out the same year; no comparison.||3.5|
|Music/Sound||Ehhh... well, not great even by Apple II standards.||2.5|
|Replay Value||Much fun in multiplayer!||3.5|
|Originality||One of the very first multiplayer games, and a precursor to the D&D games.||4.5|
|Jatte's bad-assedness||Jatte kills ALL!||5|
|Final Verdict: 4|