It Came From The Desert (ITCFTD) was another trailblazing game in terms of its gameplay. It was a realtime rpg-cum-third person shooter with arcade elements thrown in, such as driving and fighting.
Play this vid to the left before reading on, for a proper nostalgia trip ->
The game was played in a kind of realtime, so for example – if you were supposed to be at O’Rourke’s bar to meet Professor Wells at 8pm and you didn’t make it, you missed him – and a vital clue.
Also, you had to make your character have a sleep every night, otherwise you would fall asleep behind the wheel and crash, ending up in hospital which would then put you in the best subgame ever “escaping the hospital” but more of that later.
So the game begins in your house where an old dude with a donkey pops by to drop off some radioactive rocks he found. If you pick the samples up by hand you find they are hot and set your house on fire, cue fighting fire sub game – different decisions affect the outcome in different ways.
You can travel anywhere in the town but it takes time to reach your location and time is against you, as the previously mentioned rock samples come from a radioactive meteorite and they have affected the local ant population, who have grown into giants and are about to rip the town to shreds, unbeknown to everyone except you.
Your mission is to investigate the strange goings on and persuade the mayor to call out the National Guard to fight the ants, it is not gonna be easy though as the mayor is less happy to entertain your theories, without evidence.
So you follow the clues learning about the existence of the ants and how to fight them, by destroying the ants antennae, this is really handy to know as later on you come across the ants you have to fight them off with a handgun in a shooter sub-game, if you lose its a trip to the hospital.
The ants aren’t your only problem though the local gang “The Hellcats” are on your back, cue a driving game of chicken, followed by a knife fight at the local multiplex. If you come off badly in either of these skirmishes, you guessed it, back to the hospital.
The hospital’s primary purpose is to waste your characters time, as with giant ants to kill you don’t have 2 days to recoup. Cue the brilliant top down “escape the hospital game”.
This is where you can hide under hospital beds and jump in a wheelchair to escape the doctors and nurses who patrol the corridor.
ICFTD’s primary achievement is the atmosphere it provides in spades, reminiscent of a 1950’s monster B-movie, it utilises the Amiga’s excellent soundchip with some of the best unsettling music in a game, period.
So, if you have followed the clues, chartered a plane and found the ants hive you can descend into it to try and destroy the queen.
It was at this point of finding the hive once (its appearance is random) was as far as I ever got. Watching it on Longplay recently to see how to finish it. I was stunned to see you could drop into the nest, suppose its kind of obvious now!!
This game covers so many different types of gametype that there is something for everybody; underpinned by a really creepy, atmospheric game, which is completely unique.
The only issue I ever had with it was the real time aspect meant you had to keep a ton of saved games on the go because you would never know what clue you might have missed along the way and need to go back and start again.
It was followed up in 1991 with a second bizarre part called ‘Antheads’ which wasn’t a standalone game but needed the original game to play it. The ants this time were hiding inside the human characters, a bit like the ‘Thing’ monster.
Here is the Amiga long play courtesy of Cubix55