Action Adventure

BioPlus (Origin Systems) [PC – Cancelled]

BioForge is an action adventure game released for MS-DOS and developed by Origin Systems in 1995. Set in the future, the player controls an amnesiac cyborg trying to escape the research facility in which they are being held prisoner.

Immediately after the release of BioForge, the Origin studio quickly, in just two and a half months, made an addon called BioPlus (a.k.a. BioForge Plus). This kind of promptness was explained quite simply. The BioForge itself was originally much longer – it had to be cut for ease of distribution. The part that went under the knife formed the basis for BioPlus. However, that very “quick” failed Origin: the addon was so full of bugs that there was no question of its viability.

We can read more about it from Bill Armitrout (former worker  from Origin) in theminiaturespage.com:

A “quickie” project. We had nine weeks to put together a new adventure to tack onto the end of the original BioForge game. Let me stress right here that nine weeks is an insanely tight deadline! The project was a wild ride, with millions of obstacles and emergencies (including artists in the hospital, half the programmers pulled off for another project, and so forth), and we set a new record: BETA in 10 weeks. Unfortunately, the game never shipped (the executive product left the company, and all of his projects were cancelled).

BioForge 2 was also part of the company’s plans, but the development process did not go beyond the oral discussion of the concept between the designers. Origin planned to build it on a new engine, and the plot again revolved around the heroes of the first part. But in 1995, Origin suffered a financial crisis, and the BioForge team was laid off.

And from the same source:

I took over the BioForge license at Origin, and had the chance to put together a Dream Team to make the next-generation technology. Many of my old Serpent Isle guys came back, and I was also able to recruit some top-grade new talent. We had finished the design and were working on the art when the company halted the project, and diverted us onto…

Some information is taken from «Игромания» magazine, 03 (114) 2007

UPD (17.08.2022): early Gauntlet video and intro movie were found (Thanks to Daniel) 

Beneath (Presto Studios) [PlayStation, PC – Cancelled]

Beneath is a cancelled action adventure that was in development by Presto Studios in mid / late ‘90s, to be published by Activision for the original Playstation and PC. The game was quite hyped at the time: it was presented as a “Tomb Raider” killer, with such lines as “Deeper than any Tomb” and “More dangerous than any woman“. As we can read on The Journeyman Project website:

“Follow the exploits of Jack Wells as he searches for his missing father, a renowned archaeologist, down a mysterious network of tunnels deep into the earth. The game features a cutting-edge 3D engine with support for hardware acceleration and levels full of amazing uncharted civilizations to explore, climb and swing your way through.”

Presto Studios wanted to add more than Tomb Raider in their inspirations, and such names as H.G. Wells or Jules Verne were dropped in old press releases, such as in this one by CNN:

“Is the world ready for a revisionist H.G. Wells or Jules Verne adventure game? Presto Studios and Activision think so. In Beneath, Presto (of Journeyman Project fame) is convinced that Tomb Raider opened a door for third-person adventures, but the earlier game relied upon its good looks and lacked easy input control and depth of storytelling.

So Presto set off to build a game around Jack, a turn-of-the-century (19th/20th) adventurer out to track down his missing father whose expedition to the pole has gone terribly wrong. In the best Wells/Verne tradition, Jack discovers an underground world with an entirely unique social and eco-system. Three societies inhabit the underground – a Troglodyte world, a Morlock world, and an Insectoid world. Strangely, all three are biologically and socially connected, the questions to be uncovered are how are they connected and what are they up do?

Whether beefcake Jack will draw women to beneath the same way Tomb Raider’s Lara captivated men is unknown, but Presto definitely has a grand vision for an adventure game in Beneath. Unfortunately, despite obvious enthusiasm behind their product, the first couple of times Beneath was brought in for demonstration to PC Games, there wasn’t a whole lot in evidence to get excited about. These early alphas were all software rendered, there weren’t any adversaries or creatures and nothing to explore but dingy mineshafts. What’s more, the producers seem somewhat disdainful of the need for 3D acceleration in third-person games.

This week Activision trotted Beneath through the office again and we’re happy to report there’s a lot more there to talk about. First, Glide support was finally added a couple of weeks ago. Direct3D will come later, as well high-resolution versions of Jack, but the difference 3D acceleration brings to the game is enormous. Activision won’t release updated screens, so we were forced to run the accompanying E3 SVGA screens, but we’re happy to report that Presto’s texture work is often stunning in 3D.

[…] Now for the targets. Presto still hasn’t put many adversaries into the game, but at least we got to play with some early giant spiders and earwigs. They’re still pretty stupid, and we’d still like to see how the Morlocks and Insectoids are coming along, but this is still progress.”

Thanks to some previews published in gaming magazines at the time we know that Beneath would have been set in 12 different levels spread over 3 lost civilizations. The more players would descent deeper beneath the earth’s surface, the more technologically advanced the lost civilization would became.

In the end Presto Studios were not able to keep up with creating their ambitious 3D adventure, being more used to developing pre-rendered point and click adventures, such as their The Journeyman Project series and Myst III: Exile. A full 3D action adventure game was not an easy task to create and competition was high, with many Tomb Raider clones releasing on Playstation.

Beneath was cancelled and in 2002 the studio was closed down, after the release of their Xbox title Whacked.

Thanks to Mark and Ross Sillifant for the contribution!

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Lifeline (Konami) [PC – Cancelled]

The Japanese Lifeline (AKA Operator’s Side) could have become another clone of Resident Evil (a special forces girl, a spaceship full of monsters …), if not for one feature: the main character was guided by only one voice. In the PS2 version, which was released in 2004, the game understood up to 5000 words, that is, the player could give complex orders like “shoot the nearest monster in the head, step back two steps.” With numerous NPCs, communication also took place through voice.

The sales were satisfactory, but it was obvious that such an idea would not go far. And it turned out to be difficult for the players to have a continuous conversation with the game for several hours. As a result, Konami had to abandon porting the game to PC (by the way, the demo version was preserved on the Web), and Lifeline remained in history as an unusual game ahead of its time.

Information is taken from «Игромания» magazine, 03 (114) 2007

  

Dark Hermetic Order (Intelligent Games) [PC – Cancelled]

Dark Hermetic Order is a cancelled first person action adventure game that was in development around 1996 by Intelligent Games as a sequel to Azrael’s Tear, planned to be published on PC by Williams Interactive. The team was mostly known for such titles as Imperium and Dune 2000, but unfortunately many more of their projects never saw the light of day (Bloodline, Flying Circus, Conjure, King of Wall Street, Deadline News, Cops & Robbers). In Dark Hermetic Order players would take the role of a secret agent with magic powers, who infiltrates a strange cult to eliminate their leaders.

Some details about the development and cancellation of DHO were shared online by former IG’s employee Jason Redway:

“After the release of PGA European Tour Golf and the subsequent course discs Jason moved on to a project that was already in progress with Intelligent Games. This project was called Dark Hermetic Order (DHO) and was underway for Williams Interactive. It was a follow-up to the recently released Azrael’s Tear and would be Jason’s first commercial product utilising his 3D skills. Using 3D Studio, Jason created several rooms and became a senior member of the team over the year that followed. Unfortunately during a management re-shuffle at Williams Interactive DHO was cancelled and work stopped. During the next year Jason worked on several prototype projects and some cancelled demos including Subbuteo, Need For Speed 2 and Flying Circus.”

“Previously we had a 3D adventure game (Azreal’s Tear), a golf game (PGA European Tour) and the recently completed Waterworld – this one was the closest that we had experience of combat strategy gaming. Initial ideas were that we would use the 3D engine we had produced Azreal’s Tear and the recently cancelled Dark Hermetic Order to create the first realtime 3D RTS. With this brief I was tasked to create a short atmosphere setting video that we would present to Westwood.”

A single screenshot from Dark Hermetic Order was published in a few gaming magazines such as PC Player Germany, but we hope one day someone could find footage or even an early prototype.

Thanks to Alex for the contribution! 

Cheeky Monkey (Rage Games) [PC – Cancelled]

Cheeky Monkey is a cancelled action adventure that was in development by Rage Games around 2000 / 2001, planned to be released on PC by Epic Games. From the remaining concept art and 3D model it looks like the game was set in some kind of “Asian dark fantasy” world, with japanese / chinese buildings, demon monkeys and flying islands.

As far as we know Cheeky Monkey was never officially announced by Rage nor Epic and we were not able to gather any more details about the project. If you know someone who worked on this lost game, please let us know!

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