Blast from the past: "Cult II: Federal Crime"

Mar 10, 2024 • Yousef Amar • 2 min read

Do you remember when you could get CD-ROMs with a ton of old games on them? A few months ago, I remembered playing one such game that was on one of those CDs. I can't 100% remember where I got it, but I was maybe around 10 years old, and my family was struggling financially. A family friend, Aunt Wafaa (who has since unfortunately passed of breast cancer), took me to a MediaMarkt (consumer electronics store) and said I can pick out any game for my birthday. I probably thought I could get 50 or 100 or however many were in that "collection" CD for the price of one.

What stuck with me about this particular game I remembered was the soundtrack. They were all MIDI tracks, and I could remember every note. For the life of me, I couldn't remember the name of this game, but I found a subreddit called /r/tipofmyjoystick where you can post about games you don't remember the name of, and very often the community manages to find it. Indeed, when I made a post titled [PC][00s]Top-down rpg/puzzle game, Reddit user Vellidragon cracked it in no time! Here is my post (warning: spoilers marked in the description):

I asked him how he knew, and he said:

I had the first Cult on a shareware CD way back, wondered if that could be it but found videos of the sequel when searching and realised it must be that.

I was delighted to have found it again and after some digging, found that the original website was still up, and you could still download the game for free from there. I also read that there might be an Android port now, but I couldn't quite find it. I was also surprised to find that the website contained a stitched-together map of the game (warning: contains spoilers), a view I had never seen before.

I decided to play through the game once more. I did so in three or four sessions together with Veronica. I only remembered bits and pieces about the plot so it was as if I had never played it before. Truly a blast from the past.

I also remembered the frustrating bits that time had softened my memory of. This was a typical adventure RPG of the time, where you talk to NPCs who you do small tasks for that may give you items that you then use for other tasks etc. One annoying mechanic however was the way that the progression was controlled using doors and switches. Sometimes doors are opened by NPCs and it's obvious where you need to go, but other times a switch you press opens a door on the other side of the map, with no logical connection, so you spend a lot of time running around the map checking if any new doors have opened. It's easy to get stuck and either have to scroll through the walkthroughs, or try to use every item in your inventory on every character in the off chance that it does something.

Anyway, after replaying the game, I took another look at that map. I couldn't quite put the feeling to words. It's like visiting a familiar place that you've moved on from, but with completely new eyes. It somehow contains this whole world that I spent hours in, in a single picture. It also makes me want to build my own worlds in this way, where the individual components are so simple, but the emergent complexity and richness of the stories within stick with you for decades.