Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Missed Classic: Adventure Quest - Won! and Final Rating

By Ilmari

Yonder and Back Again for Tea, by Gumbo Baggins, Chapter 4: Don't Bite the Hand That Feeds You to Bog - Hack It Off Instead

"A large skunk ape was seen trying to enter the royal palace at Minas Tirith last afternoon. The hairy beast, smelling of rotten plant life, kept making noises that sounded almost human, and an onlooker was sure to have heard the words 'I vanquished the Black Lord', although no sane person would have believed that this creature, covered in mud, peat and muck, could have been human, dwarf, hobbit or elf. The poor animal was taken back to the nearest swamp, where it could be seen slowly taken by the gentle skeletal arms of its fellow apes, rising from the quagmire."

I have to admit that the final sections of the game have been really boring. After a weird but promising start and an interesting and at times even exciting middle game it all just fizzled to nothingness in the end.

In case you wanted to see moor pictures *runs from tomatoes* 

Last time I had just been pulled down into an abyss by a huge balrog. Lord of the Rings told that a falling balrog could strike down a mountain. Here, its body just vanished without any explanation and I found myself in a bleak moor.

Sixteen rooms of boredom

When you hear you are on a bleak moor, it doesn't really sound that exciting. The moor in this game didn't really change my expectations at all. Mapping the whole thing was difficult, because I kept dying of coldness every other move, but the worst of it was that the whole place was mostly empty and desolate, the only thing of interest being the Black Tower I could see somewhere in South.

Well, there was also the hill-top containing a barrow with a black spot - a teleport, which led to the snowman's cave. Also, I found a Star-Stone, the third of the elemental stones, and a cool brazier that appeared to warm me and fend off the coldness and which conveniently shrank to a portable size, whenever I picked it up.

 So, they've invented neon signs in Minas Tirith?

And yes, there were orcs, coming from every direction. Somewhat simple answer was to pick up the one direction (down), which was still available and where the orcs did not dare to follow you (apparently just because they didn't want to slide down the hill).

Leaving the moor toward south led me to a ravine and steps taking me to a circle of thirteen stones, where I was surrounded by ghosts, sucking my life energy. For some reason, dropping my portable brazier to ground and letting it expand and spread its heat somehow vanquished the ghosts.

Life on marsh

Beyond the circle of stones was marsh, which was even more depressing place than the moor. Skeletal hands kept grabbing me every other turn, which was mainly just irritating, because I had to keep whacking them with my sword. And then there was quicksand. Of the movie variety, which drowns you in five minutes.

Of course, you don't really drown in quicksand.
You just get stuck and die of starvation.

After some exploration, I managed to find an ancient house in an island.

Quick, to the batmobile!

Ever since I found that piece of garlic way back at the beginning, I've been waiting this moment. There I was, face to face with a vampire.

I guess he had watched this video

But he could choose a better interior decorator

Vampire went away, not liking my garlic breath. I found myself a pair of boots. And boy were these some boots.

You know, I've visited my share of wetlands and wearing boots in them makes sense. They are just so much more comfortable than sneakers, since they are usually made of some material with better insulation and they are big enough so that you can wear some extra padding in them, making your feet feel so dry and warm. And when the inevitable happens - and trust me, for an in-door kind of guy like me, it happens sooner than later - and the seemingly solid ground gives away and turns out to be just a quagmire, you are just happy if you chose to wear boots. When you get your leg finally back on the solid ground, chances are, your sneakers slipped away in the quagmire and you will have to walk home barefoot, but reliable boots will have stayed with you.

The one thing I never realised, before playing this game, was that boots apparently affect your buoyancy, and with boots on, you literally cannot drown, even in the famously ferocious quicksand. This is apparently one of those remarkable properties of boots, like their ability to resist poisoning, that rarely gets mentioned outside of gaming circles.

You didn't wear boots? 
Serves you right that you got caught in the quicksand!

Didn't you hear what I said about boots? 
You would be floating right now, if you had listened!

Just use those boots!
Oh wait, she did have boots...
...back to the drawing board

Yes, well... With these miraculous boots I could finally map the marsh properly. Led by a will-o-wisp to a remote area, surrounded by quick sand, I found the Mist-Stone, last of the stones I required to defeat the Demon Lord.

I am all stoned now

Whereto now? I had searched the marsh completely, but one entrance was still available - the window in the vampire's mansion. Indeed, I could get out of it, onto a ledge, with the final teleportal to the lair of octopus. Next to the ledge, I found a final piece of quicksand, in which resided all the stuff taken by the underwater current in the previous post. And beyond quicksand, Black Tower.

Notice the two arrows pointing helpfully to the entrance

Moving upwards the ramp led me to a series of four doors, made of rock, gold, silver and glass. Each one of them was opened by its own stone - earth for rock, sun for gold, star for silver and mist for glass. After the final door, I got into a throne room of AGALIAREPT, where I was instantly surrounded by orcs.

Evil Gloating

The few seconds that the Demon Lord left me were long enough for me to wave my magic medallion, which apparently was an effective demon repellent. AGALIAREPT stormed away through a secret door, where I followed him. Another maze waited me.

Just moments away from victory

The maze wasn't really difficult, but it sure was annoying. Every other turn led me to a dead end, and since orcs were after me, a wrong turn would mean almost instant death. My BBC emulator allows me to use save states, but I am not sure if all the 8-bit machines the game was made for had the capacity for saving your progression. True, the game allows you to resurrect yourself, but it might still require a considerable effort to get you to the place you just were.  In any case, I managed to find an alcove, where I hid, while orcs gave up and went away. Now, I was ready to take a passage, which was formerly guarded by few orcs.

The passage led to me to a pit, to which the AGALIAREPT had escaped.

Demon Lord looks like an orc

The big bad demon was protected by bane-fire, which prevented my medallion from working. But then the phoenix that was born in the previous post came to my rescue and destroyed the fire, which led to AGALIAREPT imploding into nothingness. All Middle-Earth rejoiced! "Was that it?", I noted and proceeded to rate the game.

Session time: 2 hours
Total time:  12 hours

PISSED -rating

Puzzles and Solvability

1) Some of the puzzles were quite intricate. Timing of the sand-worm in the desert and lung-fish allowing you change from lungs to gills and back were some of the better puzzles in the game, requiring diligent observation of the properties of certain items and careful planning how to use those properties to your advantage,

2) Majority of the game's puzzles were still of the standard variety and often variations from puzzles in original Adventure. Using keys for locks, oiling rusty doors and such were obvious things to solve, but at least they kept the pace going and made me confident that I was still progressing.

3) The majority of my playing time was spent with rather tedious puzzles, which were not so much difficult as time consuming. Mazes requiring careful mapping abounded, and the necessity of carrying my stuff in groups of four items made me walk back and forth through same screens.

4) To top it all, there were some puzzles I really disliked. The game managed to tick many common failings of adventure games: parser problems (waving a sling?), reading the creator's mind (Open Sesame) and illogical solutions (destroying a stone bridge with a sword).

All in all, a very mixed affair. Looking back, I kind of feel that the negatives outweigh the positives this time. I can deal with an occasional bad puzzle, but tedium of mapping hundreds of rooms is just too much.

Rating: 2

Interface and Inventory

The interface hasn't changed that much from the Colossal Adventure, but the clumsiness of the four-item limit in the inventory and the limitations of the two-word parser showed far better in this latter game. Part of this has to do with the more ambitious nature of the new game - Adventure Quest tries to be a linearly structured game, with a large geographical scope, which forces the player to move back and forth between different areas. The creators clearly tried to ease the inventory management with the teleports and the underground current, but these innovations just underline how ludicrous the game is. Did we ever see hobbits going back to visit Shire and fetch that piece of rope they would have needed? Or did we see them throwing Ring to Anduin in the hope of finding it again few miles later? All in all, this category deserves a very low score.

Rating: 1 (2 for the graphical version)

Story and Setting

I am a bit torn on this topic. On the one hand, this game does have a real story, which is big leap from the first game, which consisted mainly of a simple treasure hunt. On the other hand, the game had some difficulties with its supposed source material and tried to insert all kinds of silly monsters in Middle Earth. I think I'll have to give the newer version a bit higher score, just because it had the guts to take out all the Tolkien references.

Rating: 4 (5 for the graphical version)

Sound and Graphics

The original must get a zero, but the new version showed some improvement. Sure, the screens were still quite bland, but at least there weren't any ridiculous rooms this time and the variety of different areas had increased.

Rating: 0 (2 for the graphical version)

Environment and Atmosphere

I am still a bit torn. I liked the linear structure of the game, which made the game like a travel story, with each area being like a chapter with its own style. Then again, some of these areas could have been cut away, because they had very little of interest in them. The tone appears to be quite serious, when the whole Middle Earth is in danger, but then some silly bits like the god Typo or vampire fearing garlic are introduced and the whole thing just falls apart.

Rating: 4

Dialogue and Acting

The text is still pretty standard stuff, with occasional marks of brilliance and with occasional silly typos. I did like the fact that there were lot of characters with something to say, even if it was just one line.

Rating: 4

2 + 1 + 4 + 0 + 4 + 4 =15, which divided by 0,6 makes 25 (32 for the graphical version).

This sounds pretty much right. The original version of Adventure Quest had made some advances in comparison with the original version of the Colossal Adventure, but introduced also its own faults, which were then mitigated somewhat by the better parser and the variety of graphical environments in the new version. The closest guess came from Aperama, but I'd also like to give reward to Fry, who was clearly rating the graphical version. Congratulations!

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Willy Beamish - Preteen Novice Ninja Beamish

Written by Joe Pranevich


William J. Beamish Journal #6 - Tomorrow is the big day! I was able to get my entrance form to the Frog Jumping Competition no problem, but I had a bit of an adventure getting back home. Fortunately, some nice Japanese tourists helped me out and took me out to dinner. They were very sweet and I hope to meet them again someday. We also defeated a street gang together; it was very cool.

Last week, the young Mr. Beamish had successfully defeated his vampire babysitter and settled in for a good night’s rest. It might have been a dream, but it seemed real at the time. In the morning, we did our chores and boarded the ferry for a fun day of adventure: West Frumpton, here we come!

On the way across the bay, Willy has a brief scene with a nice group of Japanese tourists. It’s one of these scenes that you either love or hate, built around the joke that they don’t speak English very well and keep misunderstanding everything Willy is saying. In the end, he succeeds in helping them take a group photo. They think that Willy tells them that they will be “friends forever” and to show their gratitude the grandfather gives Willy a real (!!) throwing star and smoke bomb. This whole exchange just opens up dozens of questions, but who really thinks that it’s a good idea to give a throwing star to a 10-year old? And do Japanese people keep ninja stars and smoke bombs in their wallets? I’m not sure whether this is racist or funny, but I am leaning toward “funny”. The whole sequence is handled with a light touch, especially for a game that enjoys fart humor.

I captured the whole sequence and I welcome alternate opinions:

The art in this game is fantastic, but someone never learned to draw lips.

Before we move on, I have to nitpick: the ferry is called the USS Dumpling. This is probably a Star Trek reference of some sort (anyone want to hazard a guess?), but the “USS” designation in real life is reserved for United States Navy ships and this ferry should have been the SS Dumpling, instead. Star Trek borrowed the designation because (in the mind of Gene Roddenberry), Starfleet is the successor to the US Navy for space flight. Try not to think too much about it.

With that cut-scene out of the way, Willy disembarks onto the darker and more industrial world of West Frumpton. The region is dominated by the Tootsweet building, probably my first stop, but a quick search of the exits show that I can also visit the Humpford Sludgeworks, the Plumbers Union office, and the “Golden Bowl”. Sounds like a bowling alley to me. Time to start exploring!

Is anyone else uncomfortable by a food factory next to a sewage plant?

First stop will be the Tootsweet building to pick up an entry form. The place is set up for the Frog Jumping Competition already: there are bleachers, food concessions, the weigh-in table, and a registration booth. Thankfully, my exploration in the morning didn’t take TOO much time as it’s only 1:30 and I had until 5 PM to pick up the form. I’m still very concerned about the clock in this game, but I haven’t hit a real time-sensitive puzzle (that I know of) since the first day. I collect my form from the man at the booth; he tries to push Willy into taking a Tootsweet tour, but there’s no option to say “yes” so perhaps it’s an idea that will come later. The guy claims to give me two forms, but my inventory only has one. Do I need to give one to Dana? I’ll have to remember that for later.

There’s a $25K prize, but only 42 seats? How are they making money on this?

Once I collect my form, there does not appear to be anything more I can do here. There is no obvious way to fill it out now, nor do I find anything else that I can act on nearby. I wish I could have taken the tour and gone into the building, but I wager there will be time for that. Meanwhile, there is a lot more to explore.

No crossing the picket line for Willy!

My next stop is the Humpford Sludgeworks, but it’s only a brief stop. The entrance to the facility is blocked by a group of striking plumbers and they will not let Willy pass. I do get the “exit” cursor when I mouse over the door, a pretty clear hint that I can eventually get inside, but no dice for now. I try a bunch of things, but nothing helps me to get past the plumbers. I’ll make a note to come back later.

Next stop: the Plumber’s Union!

Do you think this is a reference to the car or the cleaning product?

The union office is another location being blocked by throngs of striking plumbers. Willy is able to push through the crowd to watch a bit of the meeting, but it’s all plumbing rhetoric. I can’t help but feel it probably pays homage to some famous speech in the history of organized labor, but we are well out of my depth. I captured the whole thing if anyone wants to make a stab at it. They want to be called “tubular technicians”, have more weekends and holidays free, and that sort of thing.

Here’s the speech in full:

Plumbers crack. Once seen, cannot be unseen.

After watching for a bit, someone notices and kicks Willy out. After that, there is no obvious way back into the meeting. There is a window just to the left of the door which you can try to climb in, but you get caught immediately. Looking more closely, I see that it goes straight into Louis’s office. That sounds interesting for later. A nearby pay phone is also out of order, so no help there.

This whole area seems like it’s set up for something later. The Tootsweet building will be the Frog Jumping Contest, of course, but the Sludgeworks and Union office seem like they have too much going on to be throwaway rooms. Time to press on.

Is that man holding a Keyblade? Ah, no. Wrong decade.

My final stop is the bowling alley, except I made a mistake: it’s not a bowling alley. The sign that I thought looked like a bowling ball is actually a food bowl. This is the “Golden Bowl Saloon”, a drinking establishment frequented by the local plumbers and workers at the nearby sludge plant. A bouncer stands outside carrying a wrench, but he seems friendly enough. He won’t let me in, but he at least warns me that this is a bad neighborhood. Coming out after dark is not recommended.

With that, I think I’ve seen everything. Time to pack it up and head home, perhaps see if there is something new to do on the nicer side of town.

A sludge bar! Call Captain Planet!

Returning to the terminal, it’s pretty clear that I am not supposed to go home yet: the ferry has been lodged onto a “sludgebar” and unable to make the return journey. If the industrial sludge is thick enough to make “sludgebars”, I think our problems here are much larger than can be solved by one Mr. Beamish. Can someone please call the EPA? Since I didn’t do whatever I was supposed to do, I quickly re-explore each of the areas. Willy now has new dialog with the strikers, asking how he can get home, but they aren’t any help. The payphone is still broken, so no calling our parents. My fire ants and smoke bombs also do nothing interesting.

My best clue comes from the dialog at the Golden Bowl where it tells me that Willy needs to “think of something fast”. There’s a bus stop there and I initially think that might be it, but even when I speed up time to when the bus comes “every half hour, give or take a few hours”, it does nothing. In the end, I just try to get into the Bowl several times, each time getting a humorous message from the bouncer. But after a few rejections, instead of letting me in, he tells me that “they” are coming. Oh no! Who are “they”?

A street gang that enjoyed “West Side Story” a bit too much.

I find out immediately: “they” are the local street gang, the Cripes. They are a snapping, singing, violent gang from the wrong side of the tracks. The name is obviously a takeoff of the Crips, an American street gang originally from Los Angeles, but I’m reasonably sure that the real gang members don’t sing. I seem to recall back when I was a kid in the 80s a lot of fear that street gangs were moving into the suburbs, and this may be playing to that fear. To give me a hint, Willy wonders what the Ninja Turtles would do in such a situation. Since there’s no pizza immediately available, and the nearby manhole cover isn’t manipulatable, I’ll have to think of something else. As Willy backs away, the bouncer throws him his wrench to help him defend himself.

What else would the Ninja Turtles do? I throw the smoke bomb and that seems to do the trick! The gang members are disoriented. Thinking I am on a roll, I throw the star next, but that doesn’t work as expected. They just say “bad move kid” and drag me screaming into the streets. The end.
cripes: exclamation (informal); used as a euphemism for Christ

What about my wrench? On the next restore, I throw the smoke bomb and then use the wrench on the fire hydrant. That works! But I do not move quickly enough and they manage to grab me again. I seem to be working in the right direction, so over the next several restores I try similar things: just running away, using the smoke bomb then running, using the wrench before the smoke bomb, and a couple other combinations. Five deaths later and I get the pattern: first throw the smoke bomb, then use the wrench on the hydrant, then run like hell. That lets me escape!
But even though Willy is running, he’s not running very far. He’s just taken back to the map screen with the gang members on his heels. Running to the docks doesn’t help; they catch me before I reach there. The closest location is the plumber’s union, but I can’t even make it there. Did I have to move faster? What is the trick? Six more deaths later and I work it out: I can go to the Tootsweet factory.

The word “cripes”, used correctly in a sentence.

Let’s pause and consider this solution for a moment. Willy isn’t able to make it to the closest nearby building, but somehow he is able to make it all the way across town to get to the factory? How exactly does that work? As puzzles go, it isn’t the most stupid, but it is counter-intuitive. At the very least, they could have given us a hint. Perhaps Willy should have been able to get to the union, but then have a scene where they refuse to help? That would have given me a clue. As it is, I only figured it out because there weren’t any other options.

When Willy arrives at the factory, the group of Japanese tourists are still there, but the Cripes are hot on his heels. In the few moments that we have, we can talk to the family and Willy is given the choice between two dialog options, both of which mean “Help!”. I pick the more polite-seeming one and that’s when things take a turn for the strange: the tourists are ninjas and they challenge the gang to combat on the roof of the Tootsweet building.

Ninjas are deadly and silent! They’re also unspeakably violent.

To make a long cutscene short, the ninjas battle the gang on the roof of the factory. Exactly how they all got up there is not explained, but does it really need to be? The ninjas win and they take Willy out for some sushi before giving him a ride home in their limo. It turns out that they are wealthy Japanese tourist ninjas. Throughout the whole scene, they continue to do the misunderstanding joke from the ferry, but I suppose I am warming to them as characters now that I know they are ninjas. Also, Willy likes sushi! That’s a win right there.
I captured the whole exchange for your viewing pleasure:

“Oh jeeze. This is bad karma, man.”

After the limo pulls away, Willy is back at home. Was that all a dream? It certainly seemed real. I re-explore the house, but that takes too long and we are late for bed. I restore back and just go straight to bed to avoid increasing the trouble meter unnecessarily. Hey, remember when the Trouble Meter was a core game mechanic? It seems the game took a bit of a different direction.

And with Willy being tucked into bed for the third night, I’m going to end our story for today. Tomorrow will be the Frog Jumping Contest and the proof once and for all whether I doomed myself two posts ago when I skipped warnings that we didn’t know how to win the contest. That should be fun! I’m looking forward to a heavily caffeinated frog.

  • We will be back for the Frog Jumping contest obviously, but there will be ways to get into the Sludgeworks and the Union office, the latter probably using the window.
  • The Japanese tourists will not appear again. Like the vampire babysitter, these evening interludes will remain separate from the main plot of the game.
Terrible Joke of the Week:

What? No “V” for victory sign? What kind of stereotypical Japanese tourists are these?

I’m going to let everyone down when I say this, but the humor this time was pretty well-done. I enjoyed the ninjas, the new age bouncer, and even the “Cripes”. The continuing joke of the Japanese tourists not understanding Willy is a misfire at first, but largely redeemed when they turn out to kick ass.

Tough call, but I really want this to be the final image of the post. We’ll just pretend that the ninjas were the worst of the lot… but really? Ninjas are awesome! Go ninjas go!

Time played: 1 hr 5 min
Total time: 13 hr 20 min

Inventory: entry blank, dog tag chain, yo-yo, ninja star, lottery ticket, no smoking sign, Slam Dunk Cola (partial), diary, Nintari key, jar of flies, jar of ants, Gamebuddy, Horny

Deaths / Reloads:
12 “game overs” (31 total)
1 reloads for other reasons (26 total)

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 CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Martian Memorandum - I never thought I'd be smuggling myself

Tex Murphy Journal Entry #3: And I thought the jungle was hard? I made my way to the smuggler's base, managed to make my way past one guard and EVENTUALLY avoid another, but I have no idea how to do something as seemingly simple as emptying out a crate. I've been hiding behind the crate for most of my time here with no idea how to proceed. Am I doomed to stand here forever? Or will I somehow get some assistance?

My first plan for this session was to go back and get the ladder correctly rather than magically shooting one out of my ars... I mean, gun.

Fry pointed out in the comments that the junkyard scene scrolls to the right. In my defense, you have to get far to the right before it starts scrolling, and the scene LOOKS complete enough as is. I'd previously gone enough to the right to get killed by the radioactive pool, but if I'd just gone a little further...

I went further and found the ladder. I also noticed that I could OPEN a small hatch on a junked car and get some Rubber Boots. Seems like a useful thing to have if I need to stand in water while touching something electric (or just jumping around in muddy puddles for fun) so I took them.

My head sank at the thought of going through everything else I'd done since that scene (expecially the quicksand maze) but then I realised that none of that was necessary – I could still access all locations! I reloaded my latest save, went back to the junkyard and got the boots – pleased with myself, I then made my way to the smuggler's base.

But before telling you about that, I should mention that Fry, in my first gameplay post, pointed out that I didn't get the best ending to the Rhonda conversation. (Fry has become my unofficial conscience in this game – pointing out where I went wrong but succeeded anyway and virtually daring me to try again and bloody well do it right this time.)

If I give Rhonda the rose while giving her the correct dialogue responses I get a bonus scene and can ask her work-related questions while she's in her lingerie

Yeah. That's it, baby. I want to hear all about the Trans-Martian Shuttle

But seeing as I''m still using my original save games I officially didn't grill her in her underwear and I magically conjured a ladder using nothing but force of will alone.

Back to the present, I enter the smuggler's base. They've built their base inside an old Mayan pyramid, and all I have to do is get past this guard. Maybe I'll be able to simply talk my way past him.

P.I. Rule number 40: The only thing smugglers hate more than private investigators are tourists.

Well, that didn't work. I thought for a while that I'd missed an item until I saw something after moving a little to the right. I'll show you in this picture.

See that small blackish blob to the left of my feet? That's a stone. I throw the stone at the priceless Mayan jug to the right, and the stupid guard walks over there to investigate, allowing me to sneak through the gap and then into the pyramid.

Once in the pyramid, I do my usual tactic of standing still and LOOKing at everything when suddenly...

P.I. Rule number 4: Don't get caught.

Okay, the guard probably saw me through the doorway. I move towards the table at the bottom, way out of sight of the door. Now I can take my time and loo...

P.I. Rule number 75: Some guards have X-ray vision.

This annoyed me for a while. I thought perhaps I'd hit a timing bug, which sometimes happens with old games on new systems. Some quick internet searching found nothing, so I guessed I might be wrong there. It seemed I had about 8 seconds before I got blasted. I tried for ages to get things done before I got killed.

There were a few things I figured I needed to do:

  • On the table is some food. When I GET it, the game points out that it will be useful on the trip.
  • There is also a Honeywell remote control on the table.
  • The crate in the bottom left has a Honeywell security lock on it.

Obviously I needed to get the remote control, open the crate and get in the crate before time ran out. But after many tries, I decided it was impossible. At most I could get the remote, but die as I was trying to USE it on the crate. I definitely had no time to walk towards the crate, and I couldn't get the remote without walking towards it (which is unusual for this game.)

Seeing as I still hadn't shown you all the HELP system, I thought now might be a good time. And it has nothing to do with the fact I actually seriously needed HELP at this point.

Here's the HELP list...

And here's what happens when I click on GENERAL...

You have to be kidding, game! It was unclear that this was happening. The game should have had a warning such as “You hear someone coming” a few seconds before showing Tex with a hole in his chest.

Or even if the death screen said “A worker comes in and shoots you” instead of the generic message that's the same as the message you get outside when the clearly visible guard can see you.

I'm claiming I'm perfectly justified in looking at the HELP on this occasion as the game wasn't very clear what was happening.

The help system is very rudimentary. Each category has a simple paragraph. As another example, clicking on 'DOORWAY' gives "The Doorway leads back out to the ship. There's really no reason to leave. Everything you need to do is in here." So, does anyone know if this is the first time a Hint system was included within the game? It's certainly a good idea, particularly for a game made before the invention of GameFAQs.

So. Seeing as the help told me to hide behind the crate, I did. The game gives you enough time to get there before the worker arrives with a little to spare.

He walks in, goes behind the crate, then walks out carrying something in his arms.

If I had bullets, now would be a good time to shoot the green Oxygen tank

After he leaves, I have some time to try things before he comes back. I can take the food and remote control, and use the remote control on the crate to open it, but there are some plutonium transport cases secured to the inside of the shipping module.

And this is where I was completely stuck. And where this post was originally going to end with a request for assistance.

I'd tried moving the cases, looking at them, opening them, using a shovel on them, even talking to them. Nothing seemed to work and there appeared to be no way to get them out of the way so I could fit in the crate.

At this point, I came to the natural conclusion that not only do I hate this smuggler base, but I hate all smugglers and everything they stand for.

Okay, maybe not all smugglers.

It wasn't until I was editing this text and looking at the screenshots that I finally had an idea. I started the game up and tried...

GOTO crate...

Well, don't I feel like a right idiot!

Tex Murphy Journal Entry #3 Addendum: Okay. I've worked out how to GO TO the crate. Now I'm on Mars and ready to deal with Big Dick Castro – one of the people on Rick Logan's list. I wonder if he'll be happy to see me...

Hey, that would have made a good 'Tex Murphy Journal Entry.'
You couldn't find any way to edit this text to fit one page?

I've finally made it to Mars. Somewhere on this planet is a memorandum. And I want it!

The Martian Gulch casino faced the dreaded Big Dick Squeeze

There's an alley between the two casinos, but I don't find anything there so I try the door to Big Dick's. A voice asks “What's Da Password?”

So, I need a password. I fleetingly think that perhaps I missed a vital clue back on Earth, but put those thoughts aside and go back to the alley for a more thorough search.

This time I find a rag I can move that gets me a broken flashlight with working AAA batteries, and a wooden board I can move to reveal the word “BOMBSHELL”

Lucky my fingers function as a perfect battery tester.

After saying “BOMBSHELL” to the doorman, I can now enter Big Dick's


I pick up the item on the ground near the right set of stairs. It turns out to be a Big Dick Trading Card which has his photo and latest financial statistics on it. Seems like the kind of thing I could use to steal his identity with. I go to the bathroom where a construction worker leaves his blueprints behind in the bathroom stall. I briefly consider running after him to let him know but that thought quickly leaves my mind and I pocket the blueprints on the odd chance they might be useful to me later.

The screen above the sinks is held in place by four hexagonal screws. My next plan – find one hexagonal screwdriver.

Finding nothing else of use in the bathroom, and having learned my lesson from the junkyard incident, I move right in case the screen scrolls. It does, and I find the entrance to an office.

I enter the office, and am immediately knocked unconscious by two large goons.

When I come to, I meet the man himself, Big Dick Castro.

Big Dick's head is shaped like, well it's not shaped like your average human head, that's for sure.

I have a conversation with Big, and I'm guessing if I answer correctly I can live. I don't answer correctly.

P.I. Rule number 22: ALWAYS bring the right attitude when visiting a mob boss

And because I want to know what happens when I don't pick up the food before going to Mars, I reload the game back to the smuggler's base and...

P.I. Rule number 21: NEVER go several weeks without food and water.

Next time, I'll be dealing with Dick and probably entering the dreaded air vents the manual warned me about via the bathroom. And I hopefully won't be stuck as often as I was in this section of the game

Deaths: 4 (10 total) - Smuggler guard, Smuggler worker, Smuggler crate starvation, Big Dick's goons, My lame jokes about Big Dick's name.

Inventory: Gun, Cash, Comlink, Paper, Boots, Keys, Shovel, Remote Control, Food and Water, Flashlight, Blue Prints, Film, Big Dick Card

Session time: 1 hour 46 minutes
Total time: 4 hours 50 minutes

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 CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one.