Some of you may remember: Back in the days when the Internet was in your infancy, choosing your next video game was like roulette. It was a risk! The retro review this time is not dedicated to a dedicated game, but to a series of titles – hence the more personal coloring. So let's go back one more time, in front of the shelves in the Kaufhof branch where I invested my pocket money as a child. At the time, I didn't just care who wrote a game, I didn't even know that Mario games came from Nintendo and other titles from other manufacturers.

70 marks was a big investment, so I took a lot of time to choose. After carefully studying the display, I decided which game I would give a new home to this time: Tim in Tibet!







The Smurfs and Other Difficult Infogrames Games - Retro Special (3)



The Smurfs and Other Difficult Infogrames Games – Retro Special (3)

Source: Infogrames




Spoiler: I regretted the choice. As a child I assumed that there weren't any bad games and that when in doubt I was just incapable, but Tim in Tibet frustrated me immensely. The game is a side view of a platformer that tells the story of one of my favorite Tintin adventures. Everything about Tim in Tibet was too much for me. The gigantic hitbox of my character, the unclear path finding in the hotel, the merciless, automatically scrolling section in the river. I have never seen much more from Tim in Tibet. And there were other such games in my collection: Asterix and Obelix, Lucky Luke and The Smurfs. All of these games have something in common: They are based on successful Franco-Belgian comic templates and were developed and produced by Infogrames.







On the way to Gurgelhals, uh, Gargamel, the Muscle Smurf crosses the whole forest, explores caves and climbs mountain peaks.



On the way to Gurgelhals, uh, Gargamel, the Muscle Smurf crosses the whole forest, explores caves and climbs mountain peaks.

Source: PC Games




I got the insight that all these games were done by the same team after Tim in Tibet. That wasn't a great feat, after all, their logo was prominently emblazoned on all of the games mentioned. Because of my love for the comics, I chose these, but couldn't finish any of them. So it was clear: In the future I would avoid games from "Infogames" (that's how I thought the manufacturer was called) like the devil would avoid holy water. A little later I discovered the Capcom games for myself anyway, which were much more appealing to me and which also featured comic characters in the lead roles: Darkwing Duck, for example, Duck Tales or Chip and Chap. Fortunately, around 25 years later, I have almost worked through my frustration with Tim in Tibet. And I asked myself: Who were or are Infogrames exactly, how did the many comic games come about – and do I have more fun with them today?

A complicated story







The Smurfs and Other Difficult Infogrames Games - Retro Special (4)



The Smurfs and Other Difficult Infogrames Games – Retro Special (4)

Source: Infogrames




So before I go back to the frustrations of my childhood a quarter of a century later, here's an overview of the complicated history of Infogrames: The company was founded in Lyon in 1983. The company name is a hybrid of the French terms informatique and program (short: computer science program) – so it has nothing to do with "games". The armadillo in the logo should represent resilience. And that has actually been true to this day, because Infogrames still exists, just under a different name: Atari SA. But one after anonther!

In the mid-1980s, Infogrames initially published simple educational games and exported them to the USA and Japan. Soon one can afford various large, European licenses, for example Asterix or Tintin. Everything is going fabulous so far: At the beginning of the 1990s, Infogrames earned a good reputation, and in 1992 the company received international attention with the release of Alone in the Dark.







Throat? No wonder Gargamel has had his name changed in the meantime. Watch out: the way to rescue is long and smurf!



Throat? No wonder Gargamel has had his name changed in the meantime. Watch out: the way to rescue is long and smurf!

Source: PC Games




In the following years Infogrames expanded, relocated the headquarters to Paris, bought new studios and secured shares in other companies. To enumerate each of the steps would go beyond the scope, in the course of the restructuring, the manufacturer and publisher is developing into one of the largest in Europe. Purchased studios are renamed, for example Infogrames North America (previously Accolade). In 2000, Infogrames bought its partner company Infogrames North America and incorporated it. But it gets even more complicated: In the early 2000s, Infogrames (for the sake of simplicity we continue to refer to the company with the original name) began using Atari as a brand name – the right to do so was bought from Hasbro.







You don't always fall into bottomless holes in Asterix, sometimes you can also find extra areas where you can collect stars. Why stars? Why not.



You don't always fall into bottomless holes in Asterix, sometimes you can also find extra areas where you can collect stars. Why stars? Why not.

Source: PC Games




In the following years, the Infogrames studios around the world were given new Atari names. A few studio closings, name changes and deals later, in 2009, Infogrames officially becomes Atari SA. Unpleasant news in 2013: The company files for bankruptcy in the United States. In the course of this, many brands are sold that the French once bought. And now, in the present, Atari SA plans to make money with video game hotels and brought the crowdfunded Atari VCS enthusiast console to supporters in late 2020.

So far, so confused, but one thing is certain: With the infogrames rooted in Europe from the Game Boy era with a focus on European licenses, the company no longer has much to do with the purchase and sale of dozens of studios and brands are almost no longer recognizable in the Infogrames / Atari games. How the company will continue remains to be seen, but true to the armadillo model, Infogrames (also under a new name) will probably continue to live for a long time.

Now it's time to experiment – were my Infogrames games really as frustrating as I remember them? Will I stand up to Tim in Tibet? This is followed by the test on the body.

Candidate 1: The Smurfs







River cruise levels seemed to be popular with Infogrames developers. Shown here: the smurf stream, muscle smurf right in the middle.



River cruise levels seemed to be popular with Infogrames developers. Shown here: the smurf stream, muscle smurf right in the middle.

Source: PC Games




The Smurfs look nice, aged really well, you have to admit that to the game. Incidentally, a plus point with all the Infogrames Game Boy titles that I brought to mind again, with the exception of Asterix. But let's stay with the blue goblins: The story is explained in two still images, Gargamel, then still known as Gurgelhals, has kidnapped Smurfette, Schlaubi and the surprise Smurf (why you want him back is not entirely clear). Muscle Smurf is obviously the right person for the rescue mission and sets off, first through the forest, then through the Smurfette, and so on to find the missing members of the community. The Smurfs is certainly not a milestone in terms of the history of jumping games, but the inputs are relatively precise (if you close both eyes) and it not only looks pretty, but also sounds good.

With only two passwords for the whole game, frustration is inevitable. Huh, password? Right, at that time it was not common that you could save freely or that the progress was saved after each level. Only after reaching certain points in the game was the gamer given a password, after which he could continue at the said point. As a child, I never reached the savespots. Overall, I am positively surprised by the graphics, the lively music and the varied levels, I had poor memories of the game. Nevertheless, today it is only worthwhile as a retro or Smurf fan who is extremely susceptible to suffering, to sneak in again. The genre is so much broader now.







The puny character, the small blocks - that is really reminiscent of Super Mario Land on the Game Boy. But is Asterix for the Game Boy.



The puny character, the small blocks – that is really reminiscent of Super Mario Land on the Game Boy. But is Asterix for the Game Boy.

Source: PC Games




I had two Asterix games for the Game Boy, I'll limit myself to the older of the two here. The other one, Asterix & Obelix, also from Infogrames, really frustrated me – does anyone remember the Tower of Londinium? To this day I don't know how to solve the level. Well, Asterix. You can tell immediately that the title is older than The Smurfs. Instead of a camera close to the action, so that the whole charm of the pixel figures comes into its own, one looks at a narrow Gaul from afar – strikingly reminiscent of Super Mario Land. There are also playful similarities, with a courageous hook Asterix can destroy the blocks that are scattered everywhere, in which there are stars and health. Overall, Asterix is ​​an annoying jumping game with a below-average look and a few nice details that match the template.

If Asterix kills a wild boar, for example, a roast is left behind, and the blonde hero gains invincibility through the magic potion. However, the collision query and the design of some areas are absolutely annoying: Holes in the floor are sometimes not recognizable as such, and even if you spot them, you can still fall to your death in a certain area to the right or left of them. And what are these thorn-covered floors, which Asterix inevitably takes damage if he missed the magic potion or if the effect wears off too soon? Thank God I found an invulnerability cheat code, otherwise I would have thrown in the towel before the end of the first level. With Teutates, it's frustrating and unsightly, not even the music knows how to please!







My favorite of all four games today is Lucky Luke. Yes, it's frustrating, but also more complex and varied than the rest.



My favorite of all four games today is Lucky Luke. Yes, it's frustrating, but also more complex and varied than the rest.

Source: PC Games




Lucky Luke on the Game Boy makes a good impression at first: The look is nice, the now no longer smoking hero has to send the most famous criminals of the series (i.e. the Dalton, Billy the Kid and so on) back to prison. Unlike the rest of the games discussed here, Lucky Luke has a more complex arsenal of action: he can lay dynamite, shoot his revolver, pull himself up on edges and swing on ropes. When the ammunition is empty, the cowboy fights back with his fists.

I am also pleasantly surprised on the further journey through the Wild West: The shooting provides variety, you can explore hidden areas, the carriage ride in the second level is fun, despite the trial & error moments, but those are during games common from this time. The animations are also impressive, the galloping horses, for example, capture the comic look well – it was certainly not an easy undertaking! I wouldn't recommend Lucky Luke to anyone today who is not an absolute fan, but I feel a lot less frustration here than in Asterix. I feel good!







Then the disaster took its course: When I saw this moment at the beginning of the game for the first time, I didn't know what to expect.



Then the disaster took its course: When I saw this moment at the beginning of the game for the first time, I didn't know what to expect.

Source: PC Games




I thought I had dealt with the trauma, but as soon as I hear the first notes of the title melody, the anger rises in me, I immediately don't feel like it anymore – but what can you not do for the N-ZONE? Let's save my missing friend Tschang. First of all, this means: In one of the lameest and most stupid levels of all time, I walk along a train from which travelers throw their suitcases. Whyever. Again there is a box that I can pick up. To this day I don't know what to do with it. The steam from the locomotive hurts me, maybe I should put the box down so that I can jump over the hot smoke, but due to the imprecise control I will probably never find out. I don't want to hate Tim in Tibet, it captured the charm of the original quite visually.







I don't just want to complain: The look of Tim in Tibet is not that bad, the characters are very reminiscent of the original and the story is okay too.



I don't just want to complain: The look of Tim in Tibet is not that bad, the characters are very reminiscent of the original and the story is okay too.

Source: PC Games




And the music in the rapids is almost a catchy tune! But only a short time later I just want to end my and Tim's suffering when I am killed again in the hotel by a waiter walking past. To understand the collision query, one must be able to taste colors and smell music. In any case, I haven't made it any further than 25 years ago. At least without help – thanks to the password system, I dare to take a look at the rest of the adventure, or at the two levels that can be reached this way. In the first one, I am greeted by a stone that rolled over me out of nowhere. There is a good mood! Then I'll read something about yaks and grass and I'll fall to death again.

On the other level I am sitting in a boring cave, am run over by another stone and then fall into nowhere. I'll conclude: I can live with never seeing the end of the game. And I feel confirmed in my dislike – the great template, especially the band Tim in Tibet, deserves better than this confused, frustrating game. If I try again in 25 years, I will definitely not get any further. The painful experiment is now over – but now I'm interested in your experiences and reports of suffering (or hymns of praise, maybe you see the games differently)! Have you owned and even played through other Infogrames games from this time? Write to me, I'm going to let off steam first by devoting my time to more fun activities than Tim in Tibet.

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The Smurfs and other Difficult Infogrames games – retro special (1) (Source: Infogrames)

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