Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Some small changes to blog format

By the former admins of TAG

Salaam alaykum! We have great news!

For quite some time we have felt that taking care of the blog is far harder than we ever could have thought and consumes too much of our leisure time. Frankly, it has often been a real pain in nether regions to wake up some days and think of all the work, we have to do for blog maintenance. We found that we started spending hours just to make up excuses for avoiding blog editing shifts - Ilmari spent too much time washing his hair and TBD even signed up for a pottery class. Finally we admitted that we had to let the blog go. Still, we didn't want to leave our faithful readers completely without their weekly adventure game dose. We thus decided to find a new maintainer for our beloved blog – someone dedicated enough to do the work we had grew so tired of.

We had discrete discussions with some major gaming sites on the Web, and the amount of interest surprised us. IGN, Valve and Gamespot all made reasonable offers, but something was always lacking. We wanted our successor to continue the heritage of Trickster and this proved too much to many potential sponsors. Many offers would have meant selling the soul of the blog to faceless corporate game industry – running ads as fake reviews and praising new hit games for money just wasn't our way. We bravely decided to keep the integrity of the blog intact, rather than accept such terms.

Some suitors were really persistent. Adventure Gamers wanted to buy us off, just because our blog was taking away so much traffic from them. A guy called Bill bragged on and on about his multibillion corporation and kept telling us how the blog should concentrate on nothing but X-Box games. We were getting desperate, but then it clicked.

At first we thought that all the e-mails from Shaikh Haroun el Serenia from the small caliphate of Vrangor and a CEO of Trusted Arabian Gasoline Corp. (see, it rhymes with TAG!) were just very bad spam. After some actual transactions on our bank accounts we realised that the ridiculous name was just an alias of a benevolent and enlightened ruler of a Middle-Eastern country who wanted to remain anonymous, because adventure gaming is not really allowed in Quran.

No, it's not this guy.
This guy is dead, as far as we know.

We are not saying it's this guy.
We are also not denying it.

In retrospect, there was nothing amazing in all this, since TAG has a history of attracting wealthy sponsors from rich oil countries. Shaikh, as we are going to continue call him, is a dedicated fan of classic adventure games and has expressed his deepest wish to provide fully paid employees from his personal staff to keep the blog going on to distant future. The originator of the blog, Trickster, and the two co-admins, Ilmari and TBD, have been rewarded generously and will be shortly living in pleasant surroundings on a tropical island.

The admin will soon be spending their time here

What's the catch, you ask? There isn't any! The staff of Shaikh are eager to provide us with all sort of extra information on oil prizes and all new ways of using up gasoline, and especially interesting and reassuring tidbits about how the oil industry is not polluting the world.

We will have occasional articles of this sort on the blog

But rest assured, we haven't forgotten the games! A new exciting feature of TAG will be the ”Missed Arabics”, which will go through the history of the Arabic adventure game. Just think of all the oriental mystery! We will get to see such less-known gems like Al-Farabi: Mulla Sadra (translates roughly into Date Quest: The Mission for the Succulent Fruit), Ibn Gabirol (The Secret of the Camel Oasis) and Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (Above a Sand Dune).

Just look at this picture from Date Quest!
Aren't you just dying to read more about it?

We will give 20 CAPs to the one getting best score on Secret of the Camel Oasis

Above a Sand Dune has plenty of cool minigames

Fans of Quest for the Glory -series will delight to find out that the blog will host a semiannual playthrough of the second game in the series. Also, you will see nothing else, but games with similar intriguing themes, like Prince of Persia (I know it's a bit stretch to call it adventure game, but we must obey the man who pays for the whole thing).

During the transition period, the Shaikh has hired a well-known commenter of the blog to deal with all the concerns and worries of regular readers.

The temporary assistant manager of the blog was rather enthusiastic to get the job

So, big changes are ahead of us! Oh yeah, you should probably all start to learn Arabic, because that will be the new language of the blog. But don't worry, I hear it's real easy!

Just start here!

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Game 50: B.A.T. - Dance 'til you Drop

By Aperama

Ageless, Faceless, Gender-Neutral, Terran Adventure Person's Journal #2: Well, I've explored the entirety of town, now. After having been shot at by Glockmups and Stickrobs (and damn, do those Stickrobs hurt when they fire away!) I managed to find my way to both the Artificial Park – which simply has to be a dead end, given I can barely even find anyone who'll talk to me there – and the Hot Quarter. After finding a lovely lady (and having her promise that I'll spend the night with her), I continued through to find the Xifo Club and its corresponding business building, both owned by the influential Crisa Kortakis – which I'm fairly sure I can finagle an interview with if I can just find my way into the club. It's going to be expensive, given I can't even find a bouncer to bribe.. boy, I hope B.A.T. take all of my receipts on tax!

This is what I found at the adult theatre in the Hot Quarter's 'films' department for 5 Krells.
 Kenny? Restrain yourself, these people mean business

I'd first like to apologise for not being able to get a post up earlier. Conjunctivitis is not at all fun – I've essentially been without my right eye for the past week. It turned this completely menacing shade of red and everything. Unfortunately? It was far, far more interesting than this game is turning out to be. I was promised (by Trickster, no less!) that the game had an engrossing atmosphere that would be sure to draw me in. It.. just doesn't. After taking some advice from Jan Larres which came straight from the manual after the last post, I can say that I no longer have to go through and use the 'translate' function every time, while I left all of the 'personal health' meters alone as B.O.B. only allows about ten lines of code in a program at once.. but even that took inordinately long. It's a screen with an up and down arrow along with around about two dozen options – none of them conveniently located next to each other, forcing up and down arrow usage to be clicked repeatedly. Slowly. A scroll bar, even, or just smaller font, would have done the cyborg-masters at B.A.T. far better justice. Random combats pop up out of nowhere and simply aren't fun – they're clickfests and seem to require you to select your weapon each and every time, and only seem to pad out the game – I haven't received any of the native currency for the effort of self-induced RSI that the game seems to want to inflict upon me for doing so. In fact, I haven't yet found anything that will provide Krells apart from the 'Bizzy Game', a version of Simon Says which gives them away at 5 a pop – in contrast, a Nitrokola, the cheapest drink I've found, has a real value of 6 – 12 minimum after my barter skill.

It flashes three symbols and you then have to click them in the order they popped up. Oh, also? If you leave your credit chit in there after leaving the machine, it's lost forever. Vive le France!

So, when we last left off (aside from my pondering finding a physical copy of this game and violently assaulting it with a hammer), we were exploring Daventry Terrapolis in search of Merigo, a two-bit criminal who is likely to lead us to Mordack the evil scientist Vrangor, with the only named lead that we could follow apart from vague clues like 'go around here' or 'yeah, I think I saw them somewhere.. that's not here!' being the name of Crisa Kortakis, a famed businesswoman in the area. One of the few clues stated that we should 'try near the Park' – and there's only one 'park' I could find – the 'Artificial Park' near the doctor/surgeons place just past the gunsmith (he'll do a full body surgery for 180 Krells, which I think is a pretty damned good deal. Except that I'm a scummy adventure gamer who has reloaded every time any money has exchanged hands or I've lost any health – take that, fair gameplay!) There is only one (thing) that is permanently on the screen to talk to, and it has no information. I do notice that I get attacked a lot by both Glo(c)kmups and Stickrobs here – Stickrobs in particular aren't worth the time, as they pretty well universally run – so I wouldn't be surprised if there's something I'm missing here. The actual 'park' is essentially a 'tree museum' – there are some ancient animal bones and a free drinking fountain within. The only interesting thing inside is seemingly that there is one 'Cop' which gives a different response to questions than all of the others have – Merigo 'looks like a guy he saw in a nightclub' (the rest say they saw him around 'the old building'), and a DRAG pilot 'reported seeing an operational desert base' (instead of talking about weak points in the city.)

The only thing with a face here. If you hold the mouse in the wrong spot you can't even talk to (it).

But on the plus side, it would appear that even with the excuse of
being racist against 'aliens', the designers still had to get their digs in at Asian flea markets

Conversation with two people at once! Well, two on the screen.
You still have to talk to one at a time

Still, aside from the 'krotospaiis skeleton' from the desert (totally not a dinosaur, just ask the writers of the game), there's really nothing much I can find to interact with. This place is definitely on my 'something's up here' meter, though, and will doubtless be revisited before too long. However, far more clues have led to the Hot Quarter – or as I like to think of it, the carnival quarter. Why the carnival quarter? Everyone you speak to asks for money, and the majority of them that take it respond with the default 'Would you mind not wasting my time !!'. After giving them money. Harumph! The opening screen to the quarter is just an old man standing around to take money just to say 'oh, the hot quarter is over there!' The next screen has the aforementioned gambling house and what I can only think is the 'Terran only nightclub', where the game's inbuilt 'romance' system comes into play. It's essentially more RSI-inducing frantic clicking to no real notable avail, so I'll leave a video link to give an indication of the HOT ACTION that comes through from it.. (Unfortunately, I can't work out what to do with it. The game states that the person you 'seduce' will 'follow you around town', but I can't find anywhere to take her. The 'hotel' is just a cryogenic bed that costs ludicrous amounts of credits and seems just to be there for healing purposes. The restaurants are all automated.. I'll admit that I've just realised that I could have taken her to the park – but what would we do, have relations in the not-dinosaur skeleton?

On second thought, it looks a little more like a Sandworm from Dune..

I do hope that there's nothing more to the red light quarter than I've already found. There's lots of 'heart' symbols in there, but that just leads to more atrocious dancing, and my fingers are already feeling sore just thinking of having to 'show my smooth moves on the dance floor' again. At least you can frantically click the 'escape' button if you end up in a fight. Or perhaps the game is just telling me that I need to sit through and not click the mouse once! (I doubt this.) There don't seem to be any other interactible either people who stay on the screen or other places to visit in this section of the Hot Quarter, with just one more screen seeming to exist in this area of Terrapolis being the business HQ of Crisa Kortakis. Unfortunately, she isn't a particularly sociable person, with a huge bodyguard that you can't even try to blast away if you want to sitting in the front of the area, and her 'owned nightclub' not being accessible without an object, I presume a pass or something along those lines. I know this due to the manual and the manual alone – one of the ten context-sensitive icons is a 'question mark', which says you're missing something (or someone) to access or use with the thing you're hovering over. I thought that it was perhaps our lovely dancing maniac that it wanted me to take with us to the Xifo night club? It wasn't. French RSI-bait 1, Aperama 0.

Even with my 'darling' Lydia on my arm, I don't get in? Damn it..

A 'hulktronic'? I'm tempted to try him on with the 'Nova' in the startup screen.. but I know deep down that the game wouldn't care that I have a weapon capable of vaporising a city block

There's only one other place to visit – the northern airlock of the city.. or to put it another way, the one that leads out towards the planet instead of back into space. The game insists that there is a place to rent out the DRAG system (the flight simulator portion of the game) within, but I can't find the place to leave my mouse. It seems pretty clear between the clues that have been left ingame along with the manual's description of the system (which actually goes out and says that the 'radar' on the simulator will have Selenia as the green dot – and Vrangor's station as the red dot. 'If you want to go to Vrangor's station, move your DRAG left or right; move forward when the red dot is on top of the radar screen...' (I mean, as far as I'm concerned, we've found Vrangor, let's bomb the bastard and get on with our lives now – thanks, manual!)

So, uh, I've read the manual, and it tells me Vrangor is out in the desert..
Can we just shoot him, Mr. Guard?

I'm not quite at a dead end – I've still got plenty of people to both bribe and try to attack, but there's no real clear objective from here. I still don't know if the woman from the nightclub is actually still accompanying me around, as there's no way of telling it one way or the other (I've tried going through all of the BOB menus and the regular-game menus to see if I do) and I don't know if there are any practical benefits to the in-game timing system (e.g. will different people be around at 10 AM instead of 2 AM?) There's at least the modicum of hope that there's something waiting further on from here.. but really, the game has given me two pseudo-puzzles and an interface so awkward I've been back to re-check on things three times while writing this just to try and see if a second scan-through with the mouse will give a different object to interact with.

Hopefully, a second run around of the park will yield results..

Session Time: 1 hour 30 min
Total Time: 2 hour 30 min

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There’s a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Game 52: King's Quest V - Stuck in Burkittsville Woods - Request for assistance!

Written by TBD

King Graham of Daventry Journal Entry #3: "I'm out of ideas. I defeated the witch in the forest and ransacked her home, but now I seem to be lost in the forest, unable to find an exit. I also helped a rat but suspect I should have done something to help the bird I saw running through the desert earlier. Am I doomed to stay here forever? I MUST find a way out – I CAN'T let Mordack keep my family prisoner while he tortures my son. There are some creatures here, but I don't know how to contact them."

I was right about the amulet working against the manwitch, but after meeting her in front of her house realised it's definitely a womanwitch. The beard I thought I saw was just a long witchy face. This time the witch didn't bother casting a spell at me, but she stood guard in front of her house. I offered her the bottle, which I knew to contain an evil genie. That worked well. The witch is now imprisoned for 500 years in the bottle and I had free access to her house.

Do witches sleep? I don't see a bed.

In it I found two items – a small key and a spinning wheel. I couldn't use the spinning wheel myself because I apparently lack the skills. I thought that giving the wheel to the tailor might help me. The key opened a small door in a tree in the forest which contained a heart – clearly the willow tree's heart.

So I now had two more ideas – give the heart to the willow tree and offer the wheel to the tailor, or perhaps the gnome if the tailor wasn't interested.

Problem – I couldn't leave the forest – the screen from which I entered was no longer available. So, I'm in a forest that is rumoured to contain a witch, I seem to be travelling in circles and am unable to leave and I'm sure there are eyes watching me from the darkness. I think I've seen this movie.

There is one screen that I seem to be able to do something with – a rock creature is there and blocks the way west, but I don't seem to be able to interact with it other than to look at it – there's also some eyes in the distance. When I tried using one of my items on the eyes, it said “The small creatures, whoever they are, don't seem to show any interest in it.” I tried every item I had (a boot, custard pie, small key, magic wand, amulet) but they didn't want anything I had.

Apparently the rock next to the frog is a creature, but I don't seem to be able to do anything with it

Convinced I had missed something, I reloaded and went back to some other areas to see if there was something new there. I tried the haystack again - nothing, checked out all the shops, offered everything new I'd picked up to the snake, tried everything but going back into the desert.

I was pretty sure I could give the boot to the shoemaker so he could either swap it for something or offer to fix it for me.

On the way from the baker back to the town with my boot, something new happened – I saw a rat running from a cat. I didn't have time to try anything before the cat caught the rat. I tried to talk to them as they left, but no luck. Oh well. I continued to the town. After unsuccessfully offering the boot to the shoemaker his wife and his dog, I decided to try going back into the bakery and leaving again to find another cat-rat scene, but it looked like that cat-rat scene was a one-off. I was pretty sure it was important so I reloaded my game from yesterday and tried going to and from the bakery again. I again saw the cat-rat scene, but immediately saved so I could try a few things. This time I tried talking to them both or picking them up – no luck. I tried my inventory items on them – first the boot – success! I threw the boot at the cat and the rat thanked me and offered my help. I assume the rat is king/queen of his tribe, as every other animal I've saved has been royalty. I'm a king myself and clearly won't lower myself to save a peasant - they can look after themselves – they're all dirty and they smell too much for my high-born nose anyway.

This is the first creature I've saved that wasn't wearing a crown.

So, another new idea - rats can eat through ropes. I got myself captured by the inn thugs again, and this time, as I'd hoped, King Rat came through the rat-hole and ate through my rope. I picked up the rope, which somehow looked like a full coil of rope despite having to have been eaten to threads by the rat (magic rope?) There didn't seem to be anything else I could do in the cellar though, and after a time I still got the same game over scene. The only items I seemed able to click on were the door (which had a rusty padlock) and the rat-hole (which had nothing in it.) I didn't seem to be able to do anything there, so I again reloaded to yesterday's save.

I tried to find the bird at the edge of the desert, but he seemed to be gone. I'm suspecting there's something I have to do with it, and it's one of those cat-rat only happens once deals, so next time I might try to reload an even earlier save and try things.

So, now I'm stuck. I have a few things I can try so hopefully I can figure it out.

One thing concerns me, the crying man that appeared on the bluebird screen the first time I was there and then left – maybe I needed to do something with him. I'll be very sad if that's the case, so I'll save that for after I try everything else.

Here's a list of things I can think of to try, in the likely order I'll try them...
  • Search the forest harder
  • Search the cellar harder
  • Reload and try to do something with the running bird by the desert
  • Try to do something with the bird in the tree
  • The one place I haven't been to for a while is Crispin's house – maybe there's something else I can do there
  • Buy the sled instead of the gypsy fortune and see if I can use that somewhere (perhaps the gnome child wants to swap his marionette for it)
  • Check out the tents in the desert to see if the bandits have left anything useful there
  • Restart the game and try to do something with the crying man before I talk to him. (I have kept backups of my original saves but this was literally the first thing I did in the game)

Session time: 45 minutes

UPDATE: Played for another 50 minutes for little progress. I now know a few more things about the forest and a few other places though...
  • If I don't kill the witch when I first meet her, she appears everywhere I do. Perhaps I should do something with her elsewhere instead. I tried killing her on the eye creature screen hoping that they'd see that I'm a witch killer and shower me with riches or an exit or something else useful. It didn't help.
  • I can also talk to the witch, which I didn't try before, and Graham argues with her like a 6-year-old.
Oh, I didn't know this was a PRIVATE forest. Do you OWN IT?
  • I can squeeze the honeycomb out onto the ground on the screen with eyes – I found this out by accident by attempting to give everything to a frog – it only let me do it on this screen so I I'm lucky I worked this out at all.
  • Leaving the honeycomb and doing a lap of the forest before coming back doesn't appear to do anything. I'm guessing I need bait to put on the honeycomb, but nothing I have seems to work.
  • There are small steps in the witch's house – they didn't look anything like steps in the graphics to me. I'm guessing the eye creatures are small and can get up those steps but I need to capture one with the honeycomb and some bait then I can force it to use the stairs to help me escape the forest.
  • After using the honeycomb I have sticky bees wax in my pocket instead – don't know what I can use this for.
  • I can walk into the moat of hellfire surrounding the witch's house.
I fell into a burnin' ring of fire. I went down, down, down, and the flames went higher
  • Walking past the ant castle makes me do a little dance, but I don't think that has a useful purpose other than giving me some more bad owl voice acting.
This was the moment the voice acting made me cringe
  • There was nothing to do around Crispin's house that I could find.

UPDATE 2: Played another two sessions of 25 minutes each and discovered some new but not useful things...
  • I missed a possible death early on – ENJOY!
Everyone's favourite kind of snake - Pooooiisonous
  • Talking to the willow tree before talking to the prince doesn't let me say “Hey, I think your fiancee turned into a tree. If the game's going to make me lose unless I don't talk to him at all until after I've re-humanized the princess, I'll hate it forever.
  • The running bird may just be an easter egg – I can't talk to it or throw a boot at it, but if I try to grab it it just says “BEEP BEEP” in a road runner cartoon style voice. The problem is, I can't 100% trust the game that this isn't important so I'm only 80% sure it's just an easter egg
  • I don't seem to be able to drop the honeycomb elsewhere (I only tried a few places, but it seems obvious that the one place I can use it is the one place it is useful.)
  • There's nothing new to do in the bandit tents after looting the desert temple.
  • I seem to be good at finding new ways to die. Here's another one.
Perhaps Graham should've paid attention when taking his daughter to her swimming lessons

UPDATE 3: Another 70 minutes, including starting the game from scratch, and discovered a few more things that don't help at all. I spent a lot of this time clicking on most parts of the background scenery in case something there is a clickable object rather than background decoration – didn't find anything useful though...
  • The willow tree sings a song if I talk to Cedric on her screen.
I found the song very moving
  • I can be killed by bees if I go to their screen before getting the fish (the bear doesn't appear if I don't have the fish apparently.)
As he was dying, Graham's last words were "I hope you all get killed by a bear..."
  • I can also use the golden needle to buy the toymaker's sled. So, golden needle or golden coin, both of which I can also use elsewhere.
  • I noticed that the toymaker's son, who comes into the room making seemingly-random comments, first mentions something about being out of wood and perhaps having to go to the sawmill. Is there a sawmill I missed? Or can I find wood for them somehow?
  • I fear there's an eighth useful screen in the desert – perhaps I didn't notice a clickable pixel on one of 210 similar screens while my eyes were glazing over during my 2 hour mapping session.
  • The hollow log in the “Enter at own risk” sign screen has a comment when I 'look' at it, but I don't seem to be able to do anything else with it. I'm pretty sure I also looked at it the first time I went to the screen.

UPDATE 4: I spent another 85 minutes achieving absolutely nothing. But again tried a few more things that didn't work...
  • I had a great idea that I was sure would work - throw a coin in the well that I found in the desert. Neither the gold nor the silver coin worked.
  • I also tried keeping the needle and the jeweled staff to open the cellar door (I was quite proud of myself when I came up with the idea of the staff) but neither of those worked.
  • I did some points-tests with the needle and gold coin, as they seem to have equivalent purchasing power - The gold piece gives me 5 points when given to the gypsy but no points with the tailor or toymaker. The golden needle gives me 4 points from the tailor, 2 points from the gypsy and no points from the toymaker. The baker gives 2 points for any of the silver coin, gold coin or gold needle - nobody wants to give me change if I pay too much - greedy peasants. This suggests that the tailor gets the needle, the gypsy gets the gold coin, and the toymaker gets something that I haven't found yet.

So, after 4 hours of no progress, I'm out of ideas. I'm officially putting in a request for assistance. Remember the rules for requests found here.

I'm stuck in either the forest or cellar, depending on which I choose to do first. I assume solving one of them will give me the item I need to solve the other.

Remember to code your hints/spoilers in ROT13, and start with a vague hint then get gradually more detailed. I think at least 3 hints before the flat-out solution spoiler works well.

Session time: 5 hours 00 minutes
Total time: 8 hours 35 minutes

Session deaths: 4
Total deaths: 14

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There's a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I have made a request for assistance. Thanks!

Friday, 27 March 2015

Game 52: Kings Quest V - Monotony Came From the Desert

Written by TBD

King Graham of Daventry Journal Entry #2: "I've just seen enough sand to last many lifetimes and I have no desire to see even another grain of the accursed stuff – my first royal edict after I rescue my family will be to destroy all hourglasses in Castle Daventry. I scoured the desert for many miles, finding only a boot, a gold coin and a likely cursed bottle. But there is a silver lining - the gold coin has purchased information – information on my family's whereabouts. Just as importantly, I now have an item that I am certain will help me on my quest. I would love to use it immediately, but I am so very tired – it's likely the dehydration. So... very... tired...."

I don't think I can quite convey in words how boring this session was. It started well, it ended well, but the bulk of the 2 hours 20 minutes I spent was tedious busywork.

Before I continued, I loaded a previous saved game from before I bought the pie and tried using the silver coin on other shopkeepers – as this is an adventure game, the shopkeepers have limited inventory that you can actually buy - the tailor said that a silver coin wasn't enough for his blue cloak, and the toymaker requested a gold piece for his sled.

I did try the cloak in the inn, in case it was an invisibility cloak. It wasn't. I died. I reloaded.

I once again tried the haystack, thinking that something might be there after I did something elsewhere, and there was, or more to the point, I could get to it where I couldn't before.

They also do a great cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit"

I never would have thought the ants would help me find a needle in a haystack. But hey, they found a golden needle, which, unsurprisingly, belonged to the tailor, who was easily convinced that his beautiful blue cloak would be a suitable finder's fee. It seems Graham is just as much Vito Corleone as he is king, trading favours for items instead of using cash or barter like a normal person. It was the tailor's needle in the first place – if I found somebody's lost stuff the most I'd accept in return would be a beer or a cup of coffee – and it wasn't like the tailor offered the cloak – Graham 'suggested' it. I know I wouldn't say no to a guy who's singlehandedly defeated a giant and a dragon.

When I tried to wear the cloak I was told the weather wasn't cold enough. My deductive skills determined that I will at some point in the game go to a cold area. But now, time to go to a hot area.

Bloody hell, the desert! Everything I've just mentioned took 12 minutes.

My next plan was to tackle the desert – seems simple enough. And it was – very simple, but very boring and time consuming. So how does the desert work? You can only go a certain number of screens before dying of dehydration.

Birds- lucky I can talk to animals - please Mr and Mrs Vulture, would you kindly bring me wate...wait...noaaaaaaaaahhhhhh.

There are a few locations that contain water. So it's a simple case of travelling a certain number of screens, mapping continuously. I did this for 40 minutes, finding nothing of interest apart from two oases, which I could drink from, and some tents, which were empty apart from a fast bandit and had a water jug outside for drinking.

But wait, I'm just selling these Encyclopediaaaaaahhh...

Now that I write it, 40 minutes doesn't sound like too long, but 40 minutes of repetitive busywork seems longer than it is. At this point I'd searched 91 screens of desert, most of which you have to traverse multiple times to make sure you explore every screen on the off chance there's something useful there.

At this point, I made myself a cup of coffee – not because I was thirsty, but just to get away from the damn desert – if I weren't playing for this blog I'd have definitely downloaded a map from the internet before this point.

Graham and I both needed a drink after spending so much time in the desert

Coffee at the ready, I continued to map the desert. I found another oasis and a well - each time I found a new water source I despaired because it meant another bunch of screens I'd have to traverse.

I also found a skeleton with a boot, which I took.

Finally something other than sand

Eventually I found a temple, where the first interesting thing happened - I died.

Hi. I'd like to ask directions to the nearest oasaaaaaahhhhh

I knew what I was supposed to do, but just hadn't done it fast enough. This time I hid behind the rocks and the bandits rode past me to the temple door, saying “Open Sesame” and hitting the door thrice with a jeweled staff. After they left I tried the same, banging with my fist as I had no staff, but to no avail. I'd clearly need a staff. Despite the game's attempt at dulling my brain for the last few hours, the answer hit me quite quickly – the empty tents from before. I returned to the tents (stopping twice for a drink, of course) and found them partying. The small tent had the staff in it as well as a sleeping bandit – I carefully snuck in and quietly grabbed the staff. Then I woke the bandit to thank him at which point he knifed me in the throat.

Excuse me sir, may I borrow this staaaaaaaahhhhhh

Okay, let's try again without being so polite. This time I snuck past the bandit instead. I went back to the temple and opened the door with my staff, which promptly broke. Inside I saw a single gold coin and a bottle near the door and a large amount of treasure at the back. I knew taking the large amount of treasure probably wasn't going to do much good but had to try...

You know you're a bad king if you make the same mistakes as Daffy Duck

Taking the gold piece and bottle, I left just before the door closed (I died the first time for taking too long to switch from the hand to the walking icon, but did it fast enough the second time)

Finally I went back to civilization leaving behind the awful desert.

Here's the full map of the desert – all 210 screens, including the 7, that's right 7, screens with anything other than sand in them – a whopping 3% of the screens are useful! The minimum amount of times you have to die if you guess correctly every time is 32. I likely died at least 50 times.

Making the death screens red was a lot more fun than actually playing this part of the game

This whole desert sequence was just plain bad game design. The only way to be sure you've found every useful screen is to die 32 times, travel on 210 screens which all look the same, many of them multiple times, and there's absolutely no skill involved. It's all busywork. The fact that I'd clearly worked out the method a third of the way through and needed a break should be an indication that it went on way too long. Of course if there's a map in the game somewhere I've just wasted 2 hours and whinged unfairly on the game for this whole post.

Desert stats:
Total screens of desert: 210
Total screens with anything to do other than walk through it: 7
Percentage of useful screens: 3%
Minimum deaths required: 32
Time taken to do desert sequence: 2 hours 1 minute
Minimum number of screens required to traverse for full mapping: 300ish (stopped counting after 264 – took a guess)

Anyway, enough complaining about the desert, on with the rest of the game, which is quite fun.

The first thing I tried was using the bottle - Maybe there was a genie inside and he'd help me with a puzzle. I was half right. There was a genie inside, but he wasn't as grateful as I'd hoped...

Oh. Hi, Mr Genie. As for a wish, I don't need anything. Except this lamp, and the paddle game, and the remoaaaaaahhhhhh

Both the gypsy and the toymaker wanted my gold, but I figured I'd be leaving the town before needing a sled so gave the money to the gypsy. Seemed like a good decision as I got a cutscene...

I can escape if only next time he chooses paper

So, armed with more knowledge of Mordack the wizard (he's Manannan's brother and wants my son, Alexander, to turn his feline brother back into a human) and a new spell-repelling amulet, I'll start my next session by visiting the forest manwitch for some toad-reflecting action. Join me in a few days...

Session time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Total time: 3 hours 35 minutes

Session deaths: 6
Total deaths: 10

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There’s a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!

Save The Owls Fundraising
As detailed in the previous post and started by Joe Pranevich, anyone who mentions that they'll donate to an owl-related charity during the King's Quest V playthrough will get an as-yet-undetermined amount of CAPs.
Also, any adventure game companies looking for a new artist, I am currently available!

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Missed Classic 6: Wonderland - Part The Second – In Which Alice Discovers Time Goes Odd

Written by Mad Welshman

“Is it strange, sir, that my head unaccountably aches here, and I feel that I have been here for longer than I've seen?” Alice enquired, scratching irritably at her ribbon. The Reviewer chuckled, showing perhaps more teeth than necessary.
“Not all here is fair, child, and we want you to find things out yourself.”
Alice frowned. “That... Didn't answer my question.” The Reviewer's grin widened.
“It's a good demonstration of unfairness, don't you think?”

As you might have guessed from the last post, I already know this game somewhat, and can tell you right now that, while the descriptions are sometimes interesting, the pixel art is mostly lovely for the time, and the game has technical experimentation I'm quite fond of, one thing I'm not fond of is the often arbitrary nature of item placement, some of the puzzles, and some of the deaths.

Important note: You do have to stand up first.

Here's a good example, we fell on a pile of leaves and twigs. We can look at them, and we can search. We need to search, because there is a key inside, and examining the heap gives you not a single clue that there's a key in there. Locker on one side, 10 on the other? Right, let's keep an eye out for a Locker 10, then!

We find ourselves, as you can see, in a little corridor. We're locked in for the moment, with not a key in sight. But first, let's go to the far end of the east corridor, where an important mechanic awaits. Specifically, a bottle (in plain sight) and a cake (hidden under the table in a glass box). Anyone who's remembered Alice in Wonderland will know what these do, but for those who don't... Let's take a look at our score text again.

“You are normal sized.” Size is an important part of some of the game's puzzles, and it won't always be clear when we have to go smaller or bigger, or even how much smaller of bigger we need to get... Because yes, there are multiple sizes.

Let's experiment a little. Looking at the bottle, there is “some potion” inside. Well, what's the harm in drinki- Ahahaha, as expected, we're tiny, we're small, we're... big one turn later. And there's no potion left. Hrm. Well, there's still the cake, I supp-OUCH.

It's amazing how often Alice gets a bump on the head...

That, in one paragraph, is a further Dead Man Walking (wasting five minutes of our time) and another trip to the medicine cabinet, another damn reload. Well, if we knew the source, we'd know that was a silly idea in the first place. Not that it matters, but we ate all the cake too. There's also about five or six doors in this one room. So let's try the other end, passing a door with a C on it (near where we fell), a wooden door, and some furniture that seems to just be there as furniture.

How odd, a Piano is playing itself here, and some chairs are playing... Musical Chairs, oh ho ho ho! This is a nice easy puzzle, although if you're not careful, you can definitely die in here. One key's on a musical sheet (Key in C), and the other (Key in G) is inside the piano... Exactly where you'd expect musical keys to be (20 CAPs to the first person who correctly notes why these keys are unusual)! And... A thing I had not expected, or misremembered. Actual music. It's about a minute long, it's cheery, aaand... You'll probably have finished listening to the music before you've managed to switch discs the two or three times it asks you to and loads the graphics. I now remember why I preferred the DOS version more, less music or not.

Remember, sit on a chair when the music stop- Oh, it isn't stopping, and nor are the chairs.

...I can't believe I forgot that. Either way, getting the second key requires a bit of fiddling, taking the music sheet when the chairs are in the right position, getting on a chair, shrinking, getting into the piano, getting the key, and getting the hell out before you break the piano (And, incidentally, your head). After that, it's time to open some doors! The Broom Cupboard, opened with the Key in C, has three items, one of which (the card-shoe) is utterly necessary to the endgame. Thankfully, you can't leave the area without the overalls that are also here.

Now, it would be a good time to mention at this point that, within the six rooms of this area, you will be expected to change discs, if you're efficient and already know the solution, about five or six times. Two to four in the Piano Room (Not sure why it asked me to change disks twice), and two as you switch from the corridor (Disk 2) to the Long Hall (Disk 3, where our potion and cake are). I mention this because it's fun to see how much the game's assets take up. So far, it's around ten, eleven locations, two of which have animations attached, and one MIDI tune on disk 2 (Disk 1, as far as I can tell, is just the title image, the title midi, the installer if your ST had a hard drive, and the game's engine, which then stays memory resident until you reset the ST.)

For extra oddness, the three middle rooms are disk 2, the outside ones 3.

Either way, once we've gotten the Key in G, we can unlock the tiny golden door (of no use to us right now because we're too big), get visited by the rabbit, who drops a blue fan and blue gloves, and then... What?

This is where the puzzle isn't so elegantly designed. See, we have overalls, which are Gingham patterned (red and white checked cotton), but they're slightly too small for us. The cake is obviously not the answer. The gloves don't appear to be that important. We basically have to look through, and, in a process of elimination, work out we're meant to open the fan, wave it, and get into the overalls... Then wait for Mr. W. Rabbit to come back, mistake us for his maid Mary Anne, give us a key to his house and some demands, then leave the white door unlocked. Stepping through, we find ourselves... With no visible way back, and a second set of demands, this time from the Knave of Hearts, who tells us what we already knew (It's a dream), and that he'll tell us how to escape if we steal treacle tarts from the Queen of Hearts.

Damn his eyes, because although Alice hasn't met the Queen of Hearts, we, the players, have... and I'm already feeling an itching sensation as my neck feels slightly less attached than it is before. Still, there's also a stick insect here, on a stick. Adventure gamer kleptomania strikes again, and I try to get both. Sadly, the stick insect manages to get away. There's lots of directions we can go, but we're only going to deal with one this update. The rest are:
  • North, to the Palace Grounds. Nuh-uh, No Way Jose, not yet. That's Heart Country! 
  • Every southerly path takes us to some woods, and straight south is a grin floating in midair and a saucer on the ground. I don't know about you, but I don't trust floating grins.
  • East is the path to the residence of Mr. W. Rabbit Esq, along with a poster telling us about a croquet game... We're not to be late if we're invited... Or heads will roll. Argh! 

I actually kinda like it. Got a kind of old-country chic to it...

Rabbit's house is very badly maintained, which leads us to believe that Mary Anne, the maid we've been mistaken for, has been gone a very long time. The grass is overgrown, there's no laundry on the washing line, and the house itself doesn't look too great either. So naturally, we steal the washing line and the sole clothes peg, forlornly hanging on it. Time to rob Mr. W. Rabbit. Step one: Unlock the front door, and in we go!

I'm not going to bore you with the entire process lovingly described here, I'm just going to summarise. Upstairs is a locked door with a gap on the bottom. It is locked and the key is on the other side. There is a vice in a nearby garden shed, and we already have a sheet of music. I think you can guess how we're getting into the White Rabbit's room. However, one thing you're not going to notice unless you're looking at everything is that there's a playing card (6 of Diamonds). This is what the card shoe is for...

What the... Did anyone get the number of that card?

We also steal an egg and a cup from the kitchen. So, with all that bumf out of the way, we are finally in the White Rabbit's room, which has the pink fan, and the pink gloves we were sent here to get. You may be surprised to note that we're already a quarter of the way through the game... And already, we've found things where the developer has relied more on the hint function than designing the puzzles well.

All of the Items in Room we can see are lovingly described,
you can interact with most of them... And most of them are not very helpful.

There is no obvious clue as to the uses of the fans, although the potion and cake are obvious to anyone who's read the Wonderland stories (and there are clues on their containers), there is no clue that the No. 10 Locker key is there (and, as far as I am aware, we can completely miss this item, leading to a Dead Man Walking scenario). We have several items, and I will say that successful completion of this game requires all of them. But we have a goal: Get the hell out of Wonderland, escape this dream that, really, doesn't turn out to be a dream. More of a nightmare.

I currently have a pair of pink gloves, a pink fan, a pair of blue gloves, a lantern, an empty bottle, a cake, a washing line, a clothes peg, a stick, an egg, a cup, and a Locker 10 Key

Time Taken: 1 hour, 10 mins
Total Time: 1 and a half hours

Death States Discovered: Banging head on tunnel (Update 1), Crashing through piano (This update), Eating the cake indoors (This update)

Dead Man Walking States Discovered: Drinking the Potion (This Update), Not Getting Locker Key (This Update), Eating the Cake Before You're Supposed To (This, and At least one more update)