Saturday, 18 April 2015

Game 50: B.A.T. - Final rating

Written by Aperama

Welcome to your inevitable demise

I can really only say so many times how much I dislike this game. That said? I really, really dislike this game. There's just nothing about it that ever drew me in. I would not have completed it were it not for the fine ladies and gentlemen of this blog.. I'd not have even bothered using a walkthrough. The game's just not fun. There was exactly one point at which I felt the game had some small amount of promise – and it essentially ignored it entirely as best as I can tell, with no point ever seeming to take advantage of the 'RPG' elements – nothing ever increased in ability (I finished at level 4) and there was never a random element (I tried 'stealing' from about fifteen separate people – each and every last one of them caught me.) I can only imagine how poorly this is going to do on the PISSED score – so much so that I was trying to think of an extra 'E' to turn it into a 'DESPISE' score – but hey. There are better games waiting for me over this holiday break I'm presently on to soothe my worries (Pillars of Eternity has remained unplayed since release) – I think I just need to put this behind me. Like, y'know, someone who has witnessed a horrific murder. Uh. I mean, Vive le France! Baguettes and expensive wine, oui oui!

The game's start was its strongest, and even then it didn't do that too well

Puzzles and Solvability

I'm of two minds, here. I'd like to be as fair as humanly possible in trying to give some kudos to this game for what it has to offer – but I think that if I called this game an adventure game, I would also have to credit DOOM for its innovative design choices in having 'keys' to open 'doors'. That is just about literally the extent of puzzles in this game. There are several things that cannot be accessed at first. Some of them require sheer luck. No, scratch that. Most of them do. For instance, to find Sloan (required to get into the DRAG airlock) you need to meet (what is apparently him – more on that in sound/graphics) at the arcade. At 1:00. If you don't click on Bizzy between about 1 and 1:10, he's not there. That's not a puzzle – that's just sadism. If anyone were to even mention that this guy existed elsewhere in the game, that'd be one thing – but the only things you can talk to people about are Merigo, Vrangor and the city. Even they give no clues as to what you're going to end up having to do. I don't know how many times I can insist I'm trying not to be unfair! The only saving grace I can say for these 'puzzles' is that a lot of them can apparently be solved in other ways (if you don't stay in the hotel that has the technician's access card, you can apparently sometimes find it on random people being sold). Not a single 'puzzle' left me feeling satisfied that I'd done something worthwhile at the end of it – I think that has to be the real benchmark here. One point for them existing, another for alternate ways to get through them.

Rating: 2

I think that ID software should really pay some penance to the French developers here.
They virtually pioneered the 'find random keys and use them in doors' approach!

Interface and Inventory

This was what I was prepared for – anyone who has ever played, reviewed or even mentioned this game has spoken of its appalling interface. I can admire that the game's problems are largely that it wants to do too much. It wants to have combat, a (driving) simulator, a maze section, conversation.. it offers everything. What it really needed to do was any one of these well. To have a hunger/thirst system that doesn't show onscreen unless you use your inbuilt wrist thing – which you access by finding a point of the screen that hasn't randomly offered something else to do in spite of whether it's visible on-screen or not – unless you use a program in it, which you can only use one of and you need to decide between 'bodily function', 'combat readiness' and 'translation'? It's just silly. Having an icon on screen which says 'DYING OF THIRST YOU IDIOT' would have done everything. Keep the translate/combat readiness functions and it's a legitimate idea that'd work okay. I also drank (at a fountain in the park) so much that I got thirsty again – I went over 100 which made it 1. That's just a silly bug that could easily have been ironed out. Oh, and the inventory is just worthless. Ceaselessly clicking 'next' as each inventory item is listed, no 'previous' function to go back, and getting minimal information on items? I knew more about items out of King's Quest 1. This is probably the most regressive interface we will see in this blog's history – it would have been clearer what was going on were this a pure text adventure.

Rating: 1

It has so many options, but the majority of them are worthless. You never need to attack anyone, stealing is useless even with my 'high stats' in it, only a few people have anything useful to say – and the 'offer' command is never used in the game's solution. Just so many failures!

Story and Setting

They really put quite a bit of effort into this side of things, I can give them that much. I certainly do think that someone back at French Developer HQ (I refuse to give the company name again out of fear that it is like the Candyman, and will break down my door with more shoddy games if I do) had a very clear idea of what was going on in this game. Unfortunately, it doesn't translate particularly well ingame. There is one monologue which explains the game's story (outside of the manual)

“Hello agent AFGNCAAP, I hope you enjoyed your trip. I'm the one who has to explain your mission in detail. You are well aware of the important role that Selenia plays in supplying raw materials to Earth. As a matter of fact, if Selenia was seized by an enemy, Earth would soon be in serious trouble. We have received information, from a reliable source, that this dreadful possibility could soon become a reality!!! An outstanding, but raving mad scientist, has escaped the penal colony of St. Yver of the Angels. This would not be so important, if it were any scientist other than Vrangor!! We lost all trace of him after the escape, but recently discovered the presence of an ECG wave corresponding to that of Merigo, a prisoner who escaped with him. Merigo is our only possible lead to Vrangor. Also, the governor general of Selenia has received an ultimatum which, to cut a long story short, states that we have ten days to evacuate Selenia, after which every human being will be destroyed. The ultimatum was actually signed by Vrangor!!! The loss of Selenia would be a lethal blow to the Galactic Confederation... That's all I can tell you. It's up to you to eliminate all of the risk factors. Here is your equipment...We've added a hologram of Merigo. Everything depends on your success...”

The problem I have with this? This is the only real time at which the game's storyline is explained outside of the manual. For a game that has a twelve page fake novel interspersed with fake encyclopedia entries, I expected an awful lot more in-game. Having Merigo give a death speech was a nice touch – there just wasn't enough of it. And why not have Vrangor give a Bond villain monologue before he begins to open fire? Sure, it might not be realistic, but it would have given a lot more depth to the storyline. Again, I see this on the level of Doom – 'you're in a place, if you take too long you'll die. Kill people and you'll win.' Oh, and I really hated the manual's text, it was just.. gibberish. But hey – you have a clear directive, and the setting is unique. I can claw back some points here, because I'm nice.

Rating: 6

Crisa Kortakis seemed to know what was going on, at least.
Mind you, the game never let me press her for details..

Sound and Graphics

I'm going to be generous and call this an 1989 game for the sake of this portion of the review – according to most sources I can find, it was released in 1989 for the Amiga with a PC conversion being the reason we're playing it in 1990. There are three musical tracks in the game. I am being extremely polite in calling them 'musical'. I disliked the music that blares away at the game's start from moment nought, and it never got any better – I'm guessing that they really were a small team and didn't have any devoted musicians coming up with anything, just resulting in them putting together some slapdash instruments. Graphically, there are some portions which look alright – and others which really don't. The majority of people look like people, aliens look like aliens. There are still a few things that I find myself looking at in my screenshots that I can't quite place. However, there is really no excuse for having a character with an ambiguous name be dressed in such a way that I actually believe he is of the opposite sex.. or at least, the walkthrough I checked after playing suggests that Sloan is a 'he'. That we can have two conflicting ideas of what the picture shows is a bad thing – this isn't a Magic Eye puzzle, it's just a picture of a person. No text identifies them in any way, so we're left entirely with our graphical interpretation – it wouldn't have been hard to, say, not give him lipstick. (I'd not have a problem were he intended as a transgendered person – I just feel that they drew someone of roughly Native American origins and figured that'd be good enough. It's a nitpick, yes, but I feel a valid one.) Without the manual, I'd still not fully understand what a Kradokid is, either, or a Glo(c)kmup – the pictures weren't ever particularly clear, even if they did convey the right atmosphere. Still, the graphics weren't offensive.

Rating: 4

I still see a woman! It's the glossy lips, I think. Do I just need my eyes examined?

Environment and Atmosphere

This game, according to Trickster, was one of those that sucked him in and in spite of terrible interface and difficult playing conditions never let go of him. I don't hide in so much as the slightest that my experience was different. Perhaps it all started badly when I couldn't really read the manual without feeling like I was reading the middle of Dune without knowing what an Atreides or a Harkonnen was, being confused why all of these people were so excited over cardamom and paprika – but the game's interface was enough to keep me at what was well and truly arm's length. Were there just one or two interactible alien characters that gave off some character to the game, it'd be so much different – but instead, I felt repeatedly that the game was suffering heavily from trying to keep to what was in the story in the manual without giving enough to be dragging people into its own nature. What I suppose is the real killer for me is that if the entire game were a 1970s crime series episode – say, you were Starsky (sans Hutch because this is a single player game) – the entire game would have made no difference. Starsky runs through the sewers of Bay City, California after taking down a perp, Mervin, to find key DNA evidence that leads him to drive around to find the evil.. science guy.. Vernon.. who is planning to set off bombs in the city. Done and done. The exact same game. With a rich sci-fi universe these guys were trying to create, they could have done so much more to grip and drag me in – but all this is is a (particularly bad) episode of a cop show set in space without all of the tropes that make the cop scenario fun and vibrant. Having someone from 'home base' to talk to, for instance (one of the many things they could have taken from Tex Murphy that would have actually been good) would have made the game so much more fun.

Rating: 4

At least it's better than Cleopatra 2525

Dialogue and Acting

Nope. None here.

Rating: 0

Okay.. maybe a little unfair. (I've been trying so hard all of this review, dammit!) The game has a very limited amount of dialogue. I've included the large monologue in this post which takes up probably around about 80% of the text listed ingame that isn't the bare minimum to virtually say 'no, we've written this up in the manual'. For instance, my gun by the end, the Nova. It has a rather awesome manual description – 'The most powerful weapon offered, its cannon is in fact a genuine photon accelerator. It is carried on the shoulder and is equipped with multiple shock-absorption systems. In short, it's not to be used in a very busy public place...' In game, all that's given is 'NOVA.' when looking at it along with a piddly little picture. Speaking to people rarely comes up with more than one lot of dialogue (for instance, 'Haven't I seen him on Tri-Dee?' is one of the most common things spoken about finding Merigo – but when around about 20 people say it in a row, I can't really call it dialogue.) Just having a few more individual characters instead of all of the 'random encounter' styled people would make a huge difference here. Unfortunately, as with so many other things in this game, an initial promise falls critically short in all the ways that count. I'm assuming that they made the game out of fear that small text would be too hard to read on the awkwardly formatted conversation screen they created – but really, they'd have been better off taking the gamble and actually including some proper speech, even if it wasn't ever going to be a dialogue between two characters. I'm giving it points for having talking as a necessity (can't get into Xifo without it) and having it be varied.. albeit ever so slightly.

Rating: 2

This is literally some of the best dialogue in the game – it's clear, functional and not dressed up in space-talk about space-things that space-space just to sound interesting. Distressing? I think so

2+1+6+4+4+2=19, which divided by 60 equals .3166 recurring – 32 rounded up. However, I'm going to take two points off. Not out of anger at the game's many lackings – it really did have so many moments with promise, falling short at every single one of them – my problem with the game is far more simple. I encountered a game-breaking bug which literally would have stopped progression. Yes, I wouldn't have found anything new after that point if I'd stopped the game there, but having a game-breaking bug is enough to make me want to lower the score on this. Even without it, though, the game was illogical, unfun and generally made me question my faith in humanity.

Cap Distribution

120 CAPs for Aperama
  • Blogger Award - 100 CAPs - For blogging his way through game for our enjoyment
  • Daredevil Award - 20 CAPs - For getting through a maze half blind
40 CAPs for Ilmari
  • Clue Master Award - 30 CAPs - For giving me lots of clues when I did ask
  • B.A.T. Master Award - 10 CAPs - For making my double post into a curio of alien culture
30 CAPs for Renke
  • French Bird Lover - 30 CAPs - For helping our avian friends survive in the land of mad adventure games
20 CAPs for TBD
  • Backstage Antics Award - 10 CAPs - For providing me with a map when I needed it
  • Reference Extraordinaire Award - 10 CAPs - For finding my references to geek culture (when I fell into different games)
20 CAPs for Laukku
  • Ant Apocalypse Preparation Award - 20 CAPs - For answering the riddle re: Greg Bradley
15 CAPs for Jan Larres
  • B.O.B. of All Trades Award - 10 CAPs - For helping me with my programming woes
  • Clue Award - 5 CAPs - For giving me a clue even when I didn't ask
10 CAPs for Kenny McCormick
  • Genre Appreciation Award - 5 CAPs - For announcing a Steam Sale
  • B.O.B. Apprentice Award - 5 CAPs - For discovering food and toilet apps reminiscent of my onboard wrist computer
10 CAPs for Laertes
  • Psychic Prediction Award - 10 CAPs - For predicting the score I would give the game

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Game 52: King's Quest V - Won!

Written by TBD

King Graham of Daventry Journal Entry #7: It's finally over! Mordack is dead and my family is safe - I may even have found my son a suitable royal wife into the bargain. All I had to do was wait in Mordack's study for an unreasonably long time and everything else just fell into place.

I know I've been hard on this game at times and I'm going to be so again, but I should mention that I've really had fun playing King's Quest V - I don't think that enjoyment has come out enough in my posts so I thought it worth bringing up now.

I ended the last post with a request for assistance, and Andy_Panthro valiantly came to my rescue.

As I read his clues one by one I became increasingly annoyed with the game. I needed to use all of the clues to solve the puzzle, and even then it was difficult. The final hint was...
  • You can hide in the library (in the right place), and wait for Mordack to arrive and sleep. Then his wand can be yours! 
Well, I'd already tried looking for hiding places all throughout the castle after reading earlier hints, including the library, but now knowing this was the correct answer I tried again. I waited in the library for a while. Nothing was happening. Perhaps my dosbox cycles were too high. Perhaps the game doesn't play well with modern processors. Perhaps I hadn't found the elusive 'right place'. I kept waiting. Eventually (2 minutes and 30 seconds later) Mordack appeared in the bedroom and took a power nap.

Before going to bed Mordack likes to pretend he is Batman

Now, two and a half minutes doesn't sound like much. But when sitting in a room in a game waiting for something it seems forever. Even when I was sure it was the right thing to do because Andy_Panthro told me so, I still didn't think I was doing it right. The game gives no indication at all that Mordack ever sleeps while I'm in his castle. There is no indication in the library that anything there is a hiding place. The closest you get to a clue is when you look at the doorway of the library and the narrator says, “Graham can see into Mordack's bedroom through the open doorway.” I can see how in hindsight some might classify this as a clue, but the narrator will generally tell you what's on the other side of any door or opening when you 'look' at it so this isn't unusual.

It seems that just waiting in the library for 2 minutes or so is all that's needed. In trying different things, I noticed that it took different times for Mordack to appear – I suspect that each time I looked at an item in the room it paused the 'Mordack tiredness clock' which only starts when you enter the library and ends as soon as you leave. From my tests it seems to be a 1 minute 50 second wait if you don't take any action.

In an effort to discover more deaths, I tried standing directly in front of the doorway so Mordack can see me when he appears, but he didn't notice me at all. I also tried going further into the room so the 'eye' on top of the door could open and stare at me, but this still didn't change what happened. After he went to bed I also tried grabbing, talking to and walking up to the sleeping Mordack, but I couldn't get the evil wizard to wake up and kill me.

Seeing as the game didn't give me to option to kill him in his sleep, I took the wand he'd left next to his bed and left for the library. Having finally found the item I'd spent hours trying to get, I knew what I needed to do here. I put Mordack's wand on the left platform, Crispin's wand on the right and the mouldy cheese into the cauldron (did I miss a clue somewhere that told me the machine was powered by mould?)

The machine activated and this time Crispin's wand was charged. Mordack appeared, as did Cedric, who flew through an open window. Mordack used telekinesis to retrieve his wand and shot the owl in the suspicion that perhaps he was about to be useful for a change.

Now it's my turn with a too-late-warning, "Cedric, watch out!"

Mordack threw his wand on the ground in disgust ("Warning Mr Mordack. Wand abuse”) and showed his real power by turning into a giant flying insect.

I used my own wand and the images from Mordack's book appeared, letting me choose from them. Because I'd seen the screenshot a few times, I remembered the order they were in in the book so tried the first one, which looked like a tiger.

I turned into a tiger and faced off with the giant insect, which resulted in neither of us doing much of anything.

Honestly, if I had to bet, I'd put my money on the giant winged insect with dangerous looking pincers

Unimpressed with the stalemate, Mordack turned himself into a dragon. I used the wand and chose the second picture, which looked like a bunny on a human face.

I turned into a bunny and quickly hopped away each time Mordack breathed fire at me.

When I'm in this form I like to be called Mister Hopsy

Mordack then turned himself into a pooooiisonous snake. I used the wand and chose the third picture, which looked like a human shadow with a white rat superimposed over it.

I turned into a mongoose (okay, not a rat) and tackled Mordack.


He then turned himself into a ring of fire and surrounded me. I chose the obvious and used my wand to turn into the fourth picture which looked like either a butterfly or a chandelier.

I summoned a rain cloud above my head and the rain put Mordack out, thus ending his evil forever!

Time to put a dampener on your celebrations, Mordack (To be read in your favourite 80s action hero voice)

I had defeated the evil wizard and got a cutscene where the rest of the plot played out.

Beam us to Daventry, Mr LaForge

In the cutscene, Crispin appeared and told me everything I'd already heard from the gypsy back in the first act as if he was telling me news. Then he told me he knew how to fix my family and castle. He embiggened my family – my randy son promptly fell in love with Princess Cassima, who'd shown up to ensure I was going to save her as promised.

Let's continue to ignore the dying owl and have a group hug

Graham for some reason told his family that Princess Cassima was solely responsible for their rescue, forgetting all the other people who had to play their part as well – why no love for King Antony or the Willow Bride or even the roc whose hunger gave me the locket I needed to gain Cassima's trust?

"Cassima, meet Alexander, who started this whole mess." Nice way to introduce your son to the only eligible princess he's likely to meet?

Crispin sent Cassima back to her home, then sent my castle back to where it belonged and was about to send me and my family back home when Graham suddenly remembered the probably-dead body of Cedric the Unhelpful. Crispin easily brought Cedric back from the brink of death, then sent the Royal family back to Daventry.

"Everybody who is not to blame for this whole traumatic incident put your arms around me - Alexander, pack your stuff and get out of my castle."

I'm a little surprised to have maximum points here

Of course, I couldn't leave the game without seeing what happens if I choose the wrong spell when fighting Mordack...

Time to put a dampener on your... wait... what... aaaahhhhh!

Session time: 35 minutes
Total time: 16 hours

Session deaths: 1
Total deaths: 36

Dead ends found or suspected: 19
I found some dead ends, and suspect some more. Let me know in the comments if I've gotten any of these wrong or missed any...
  1. Not throwing the boot at the cat as soon as it appears
  2. Not getting the bottle or coin in the desert temple's treasure room
  3. Buying the sled with the gold coin or needle
  4. Buying the pie with a gold coin
  5. Not getting the honeycomb before going to the forest with the amulet
  6. Eating the pie
  7. Eating both halves of the lamb
  8. Throwing the rope onto the obvious hanging branch (Grrrrr!)
  9. Climbing the rope without having bought a sled
  10. Climbing the rope without having given the shoes to the shoemaker
  11. Giving the pie to the eagle
  12. Not feeding the eagle before getting captured by wolves
  13. Not picking up the crystal before being kidnapped by a roc
  14. Not picking up the locket from the roc's nest
  15. Not picking up the iron rod from the beach before giving the conch to the hermit
  16. Leaving Cedric to die on harpy island
  17. Not picking up the fish hook from harpy island
  18. Giving the cat a fish but not bagging him – particularly as it's possible to meet the cat before the blue monster
  19. Throwing the peas at the blue monster the first time you see him – this one's particularly bad – effectively making it impossible to win because you were too good at the game's own logic 
I have a strange love/hate relationship with King's Quest V and have no idea how the PISSED rating will end up. I guess we'll all find out in a few days. But first...

Comparison between CD and Floppy versions
I thought I'd spend a little time examining some of the differences in the PC versions of the game.

Apart from the obvious difference between CD and Floppy versions of the game, being that the floppy version isn't voiced, I noticed some other slight differences

The floppy version has extra icons, notably two walk icons. The leftmost icon has Graham's walking controlled in the same way as previous Sierra games - when you click, he'll travel in a straight line towards your cursor but stops as soon as he hits an obstacle. The other unfamiliar icons are save and stop which are sensibly contained in the options window in the CD version. Also the screen cursors for all the icons are a simple white in the floppy version rather than coloured in the CD version.

The leftmost icon is a "Click here to die while climbing mountain paths" button

Strangely, the character portraits show more detail in the floppy version, and in the case of Queen Beetrice at least, more animation - as she waves her staff slightly and moves her arm and antennae. The CD version has water sound effects and a bear growl as well as voiced dialogue.

We get to see the bottom of Crispin's beard in the floppy version
Nice wings you have there, dear

One other thing I noticed was that time stops when the voiced dialogue kicks in. This makes one particular puzzle much harder in the floppy version - the scene outside the bakery with the cat chasing a rat - in the CD version, the narrator tells you about the cat chasing the rat before they show up, giving you some time to react. In the floppy version it all happens much faster, making it almost impossible to do anything before the cat's killed the rat and you're stuck in a dead-end.

As for which version is better, that would be different for people's own subjective tastes - I personally like the extra immersion I get from voiced dialogue and can cope with the poor voice acting. I'm a little disappointed about the missing animations and character portrait detail but the voices, sound effects and user interface improvements more than make up for it for me.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Game 50: B.A.T. - Merigo 'Round + WON!

Written by Aperama (mostly)

Special delivery from the B.A.T. headquarters

Special agents Mr. T and Mr. I

"Have we heard anything from our best operative yet?"
" Not a word. Last time we heard, Mr. A was forced to make his living as a gigolo in Selenia, using all his time to cheat in casinos just to survive. Merigo, the small-time crook he is after, has kept shooting him to tiny pieces, and Mr. A has been forced to go through several regenerative SAVE/LOAD-cycles."
"How awful! Should we just recall him?"
"He did finally manage to get a lead on Merigo and should be reporting in few minutes whether he has succeeded to eliminate this small problem."
"Ahh, I think I am hearing an incoming message..."


Angry Guy with a Gun's Journal mk. V: “Okay, now this is just ridiculous. I mean, who in the name of Crisa Kortakis is running this place? I'm not even sure why I'm bothering to save this stupid place any more. I found Merigo. I killed Merigo. Did I get a thank you? A parade? No, I didn't even have anyone notice the body on the floor! He had an access card to the Old City.. and why on Terrapolis I decided to go down there is beyond me. I even took Lydia and Sloane with me – they didn't seem to mind getting lost in what I can only call a hellish maze of tunnels. Well, they didn't complain, anyhow. It's thankful I took Lydia – heck, I think Crisa even knew what was going on – she conveniently left Lydia with a key that unlocked a secret compartment to find an access card to an.. Epsilon something. I can only think that this is going to be my way of getting to Vrangor. I have a new force field, plenty of ammo for my Nova and a DRAG.. it's time to leave Terrapolis, kill Vrangor.. and if they don't parade me as a national bloody hero, I might just blow the city anyway!”

This is what happened the first time I fought Merigo, just for the record.. just I could record it with him in one reliable place. I still wonder if Merigo can be killed without 'finding' the right alien

In order to run this blog (and facilitate between writers and admins), there's a forum for us to post up issues et al. This game gave me a first for the blog, I think – the game managed to literally make itself non-completable. This isn't me saying the game was too hard – it bugged up significantly. There's a maze (more on that later) which I literally needed step by step, square by square directions as it was unsolvable ingame. Despite being given directions and a map, I feel honour bound to say – I cheated. And in truth, that wasn't the advice given – the advice given was actually 'just call it here, the game is obviously doing you significant mental damage and you'd rather be playing a game of stick and paddle.' Or single player beer pong. I think that I might have to drink quite a bit to complete the game at the present rate, actually. Now I see why Chester needs his GIMLETs.

Merigo looks a little like he was dressed as John Travolta from Saturday Night Fever.. 
maybe he got what was coming to him

So when I last left off, I was ready to run into the Xifo club and face Merigo. As you can see from the video above – prepared, taking him down was actually quite simple. It just took having B.O.B. set to 'accelerated' (accelleration – I'm willing to forgive this spelling error as it may be something from the original French) to give me the time needed to blast his face off. (Well, actually, I aimed everything for his gut, but good enough.) So, on killing him, he drops a keycard that allows access to the Old City – a series of underground tunnels that sit underneath Terrapolis. Thankfully, as Ilmari refused to allow me to bite off my nose to spite my face, he pointed out before I touched in on the horrendous maze to come that I was missing a key item in the comments. This game is so awful that even his clue wasn't good enough! I had already found a 'hotel' – why would I be expecting to find another hotel hidden behind the force field shop? Keep in mind that to locate a place in this game is already like pulling teeth, having to go over the entire screen and sometimes not even getting a result despite being in the right spot (if it's decided that a random 'person' is there to be spoken to, you can have the 'speech' command override the 'go out of the room' command with no way of knowing you've missed it). Still.. even with the knowledge that this place was here, I wouldn't have thought to rent out a room, be 'randomly' assigned the right one and 'find' a keycard for the underground tunnels inside. Maybe if there wasn't already a place in another room called 'HOTEL' with a sign out the front I might have been looking for it.

Mummy. I give. Hail freaking Satan. Whatever I have to do to make it stop

So, I can only restate my thanks to Ilmari for giving out that hint – I'm not a hundred percent sure what it unlocked underneath the tunnels, but I'm certain that if I'd had to go through the maze of a thousand terrors again that I would indeed lose my marbles completely. See, here's what forced me to (for what I believe is a first in this blog's history) actually need to ask for an exact map of a maze. For one thing, the maze is absolutely huge – I'm certain that even TBD's work on gridding out KQ5's maze has very little in comparison to this thing. See, this one has dead ends. Several of the 'gates' which you go through actually don't allow you back through – to the point that you have to take an extremely wide arc to get around them. I'm willing to map out, trial and error and all of that. But now, add in another killing blow? What the FAQ writer apparently thought of as 'random' (it actually seemed to occur pretty damned reliably at four different locations), the maze will turn you around on entering a new room – instead of facing the same way every time, you face the other. Now, why couldn't I just grit my teeth and bear it?

What the maze is supposed to look like

What it looked like half the time

You can't save in this thing. Over 300 required squares (who knows how many erroneous paths) of individual, featureless nonsense. I mean, I can say that it does stop half way and you can save there – but trust me, that is barely good enough. This maze technically only took around about 30 minutes during the first section and maybe 15 on the second (as I had a better idea of what I was doing, using the mixture of 'sometimes this turns you around here' annotations from the walkthrough that Ilmari had copied out for me – the map was more useful overall though) but the true toll that it took on me was definitely mental. I can barely insist enough on how painful it was getting through this thing, and it's only out of sheer dogged persistence that I managed to go through (well it was 290 something and then the last lot is just 'keep going to the end', so I kinda blanked out for those last maybe 30 squares or so – that said, it did turn me around here in spite of the walkthrough's guide not telling me it would – I nearly cried when pushing forwards did nothing).. but to be honest, the real sin here is that for the incredible amount of effort taken, this is pure padding – it's not even where you end up wanting to be, this section of the game is simply to send you to get a single keycard which I'm assuming will allow me into Vrangor's base.

The 'underground city'! It's impossible to describe the elation in seeing this screen

Don't have to tell me twice, sir

So, now that we've finally made our way into the underground city, there's.. some people to talk to! They don't really say anything – they're pretty much mole people, and don't know anything about anyone. Even Merigo, who has obviously been down here recently in planting the bombs that the manual speaks of, must have forgotten to tell them his name – they don't respond to much of anything, so it's just onwards ho. I'm guessing that the last screen is the one that the technician's access card lets us into – I didn't go in without to confirm, but it does sorta look like an access tunnel-y place that it's sending us through. When we enter what looks to be a control room of some sort (albeit bereft of any real interactible features), Lydia pops up and finds something that the necklace Crisa gave her when we met with her 'would fit into perfectly'. So clearly, Crisa's in on this (though she won't let us in to see her again and confirm it) – maybe she's quietly trying to let us not have the city blow up, or she just thought it'd be funny to have us go a hundred and fifty squares through a maze to pick up something that the game has yet to say we'll need...

How convenient!

Radar.. thingamebob.. amewhatsit! Okay!

Again, it might not look like much progress has come out of this post – but good god does it feel like it. I'm calling it here. My word/character count is quite a way down from when I usually finish a post, but this is a special circumstance. The game literally doesn't want me to beat it. I can only say how frustrating the game is so many times. But it is. A lot. Alcohol. I need alcohol.

this haunts my nightmares

Session time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total time: 7 hours

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. But if anyone is about to tell me I've missed something, tell me. I'm not sure I have the mental endurance to have to reload significant portions of the game – heck, even minutes of it could be tough. I just want the game to end. Can you please make it end? I'm willing to consider anything. Hammer to the brain? I understand that's a pretty polite way to go.


"I say, what a remarkable man! Walking through a devious maze almost blindfolded! I think he deserves 20 Cassiopean Astro Pins extra for this assignment!"
"Quite right. But what is this? A second transmission from Mr. A.!"
"So soon! What a remarkable man!"


I Just don't know any more. Why am I even keeping this? Journal 6: “I.. uhm. I won, I guess. I don't know about the bombs and stuff. Was that important? I don't know. After making my way through the tunnels, I went down to the technician's station behind the airlock (gee, they hid that one well! It's just lucky I guessed they were there!) I found the code for what I knew was going to be the Epsilon Station from the code I found in the underground city – a series of eight left or right switches.. I could have guessed it but I think it would have taken a while. Anyway. I amped B.O.B. up to accelleration (damned French designers misspelling everything!), made my way into the Epsilon station – and found Vrangor already swinging his sidearm at me! I took a few hits, but I took him down. He's dead, so I won't be asking him any questions. I'll try to get onto B.A.T. command and report what's happened.. and.. god, what if those bombs are still active? Seriously, this could be bad..”

French Developer 1: 'Mon dieu! I know what zis game is missing!
The worst part of le Tex Murphy games!'

French Developer 2: 'But monsieur, if we were to do zis, we would have to make
le space stations look like circus tents.'

French Developer 1: 'Brilliant! But le bad space station is evil, so.. orange and black?
Like le Halloween!'

Tears. Tears of utter pain and disappointment. As though the game weren't causing me enough grief, it has to not only end badly – but badly on a cliffhanger. Hoo-boy. There is one key positive I can take of this – I'VE FINISHED B.A.T.!!! I DON'T HAVE TO PLAY THIS HORRIBLE GAME ANY MORE!!! WOOHOOOOOOO!!!!! (Also on the positive side, I only had to get through two bottles of cider to get through this section of the game thanks to my meticulous game saving.) I was wrong on Ilmari's clue from post #4 – it was actually needed for Vrangor's station, so I didn't actually need it when I was worried I would – but it saved more trial and error to make my way through.

Where we essentially last left off

The DRAG was a lot like the Tex Murphy flight simulator portions – except without elevation, or anything interesting. Or an auto pilot. Essentially, all it was was just going around in circles until I found an orange dot on the radar section, going around at full speed until nearing a place to make sure it took my entry properly. Not complicated. Landing in the station, it looks sorta like the Epsilon station has been crashed into or something. I really don't know what to make of it.

What would you guys call that?

Unfortunately, this led to the final 'puzzle' of the game – an entirely guessable 'code'. I figured having five different keys on me would mean that one of them would allow me in – after all, I had picked up the 'epsilon radar' thing in the underground city – but it was actually the technician's pass that was the way through here. I hadn't noticed another entryway in the 'northern airlock' area (I found it by sheer chance, naturally, as that is how this game works – I was scanning rooms at the time and figured that I hadn't given much care to the DRAG area, but found another arrow on my way to getting there) which let me enter an area with some people standing around in space suits. They told me to 'help myself to this data'. I did.

Thanks, guy!

LRLRRLLR? No, up up, down down, left right, left right, B A start, you fool!

The game has no sound, just music, by the way.
So when you click on this, you have to BACK out with no clues that the door is now open

So, I know what you're all thinking. There's going to be a great big climactic showdown of wonderment, where all of the questions we haven't bothered to ask are going to be answered? No, they spent all of their budget on printing manuals with indecipherable information and creating a useless flight simulator. And a useless maze.

So yeah. Nope!

Session time: 20 minutes
Total time: 7 hours 20 minutes


"That's it, Mr. A did it! But what did he ramble about bombs? Surely he should have remembered that we were after Vrangor just for his assets?"
"I am afraid the traumatic experiences of Mr. A in Selenia have caused a partial amnesia. He thinks he is part of some silly intergalactic space police, instead of the Bureau of Avaricious Taxmen."
"How awful! He must be given some time off for his duties. So there were no bombs, then?"
"Of course there were bombs! What do you think we were blackmailing Vrangor with?"
"Ah, the standard procedure. Wait a minute... I am getting something... yes, Mr. A has been transported to a Bureau space cruiser with his harem that he insisted taking with him. Should we call our troops to remove the bombs?"
"And leave this rat hole colonized by French Maze Builders Association intact? Better to end its misery..."

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Game 52: King's Quest V - Time to Let the Cat Out of the Bag - Request for assistance!

Written by TBD

King Graham of Daventry Journal entry #5: My boat's shipwrecked on Mordack's island and I've explored his castle as thoroughly as I can think of, but I've no way to defeat the fiend or rescue my family. I've defeated a blue creature with the power of teleportation and the talking cat, Manannan. I've met a princess that I've sworn to rescue after saving my own family but I'm still no closer to my goal. There must be a way. I need only to find it...

This was all just supposed to be a three hour tour - a three hour tour!

From the looks of our boat, our chances of going back the way we came are gone - I'm sure I could repair it if only I wasn't all out of beeswax. Unfortunately, I didn't seem to be able to salvage any parts from the shipwreck. There was a rotting blue fish near the shipwreck though so of course, I picked it up. It may sound like just a piece of trash, but last time I picked up a rotting fish I ended up with honeycomb, a stick, beeswax, some green gems, a golden needle, some fine shoes and so on, until I eventually made my way here - none of which would have happened if I didn't pick up the rotting fish.

With a rotting wet fish in my pocket, I climbed the stairs, where I found two large snake statues. As I got closer, the eyes glowed brighter. I went through expecting exactly what I got - death!

Oh boy!

After a reload, I tried using my crystal shard on the snakes. It reflected the lightning back into the snake eyes and burned them out. Onward once again!

Moving forward, Cedric and I found the entrance to the castle, but because Mordack doesn't want to make it easy for his visitors, it was over a chasm. If I tried to cross I'd fall and die, so, despite Cedric's pleas that we turn back (turn back where, owl? Our boat is smashed to bits and we have nowhere else to go!) I went around to the side of the castle, where I found a grate. Again Cedric begged me to turn back - again I ignored him.

Prying up the grate with my metal rod and propping it up with the same, I dropped down into... a maze. Cedric had bravely offered to stay outside and be a lookout.

Once I go down, I can't do anything with the hole in the ceiling so it looks like I'm stuck down here in this labyrinth. This maze was hard to navigate at first but fairly easy to map once I got the hang of it. When I walk in any direction the next screen has me continuing to face that direction. I would have found it very difficult except I discovered accidentally (this is not the first time I discovered something important accidentally in this game) that if I clicked my 'look' icon on the blackness below the actual visible screen I got a compass - this makes no sense and I feel for anyone who didn't discover this trick.

This labyrinth is largely empty and another exercise in basic mapping skills - the dungeon hole doesn't exist until later when I escape the dungeon

Throughout the labyrinth creatures randomly walk on the walls, but I don't seem to be able to interact with them so I assume (hope?) they're just background atmosphere.

These yellow green or blue creatures quickly scurry along the walls and ceiling, vaguely resembling space invaders

In one dead end I found a furry monster whose only words are "Dink" and whose name is Dink. When I got close to him, Dink killed me.

I will name him George and I will hug him and pet him and squeeze him

After a reload, I decided to try my rescued tambourine - I've had great luck so far playing music for animals. Dink loved the tambourine and ran off with it, dropping his hairpin as he left. I'm not certain but I think he recognised the tambourine and is off to return it to its rightful gypsy owner. I of course, rescued Dink's hairpin from the ground. I found nothing else of interest in the labyrinth apart from a door, which I could open with my new hairpin.

Now out of the only slightly annoying labyrinth, I took a bag of peas from a cupboard, then went to the next room to see a beautiful servant girl. I knew she was beautiful because the narrator points out that "though wearing rags her beauty nevertheless shines through"

When I try to talk to her she shies away. Knowing that all women value jewellery over their own safety, I give her the locket I found in the roc's nest. I'm rewarded with a cutscene.

She seems to be wearing a lot of eye shadow for someone who expected to be scrubbing floors all day for someone she hates

Her name is Princess Cassima and she's from the Kingdom of the Green Isles. Mordack wanted to marry her but when she refused he kidnapped her and told her she'd remain a scullery girl until she agreed to marriage.

Now that Graham knew she was royalty, he promised to save her as soon as he rescues his own royal family.

There seemed to be nothing else to do on this screen so I went east where I found a large organ.

The head above the organ creepily follows Graham as he traverses the room

Guessing that it probably wasn't a good idea, I attempted to play the organ. When I got close to it, it started playing music by itself. Surprised to still be alive, I went east to the dining room, where Mordack promptly killed me.

Apology accepted, King Graham

Deciding against drawing attention to my presence, I decided not to play the organ the second time. Instead of Mordack, a weird blue monster captured me and created some kind of portal to a dungeon, throwing me inside.

Looks like some kind of weird mix of an alien a tauntaun and a smurf

As soon as I entered the dungeon I saw a mouse go into a mouse hole - so I stole his mouldy cheese with my fish hook (Graham doesn't care about the quality of the items he steals, he just wants everything that isn't his.)

After a short while a rock in the dungeon wall moved. Princess Cassima was pushing aside the heavy brick and had come to rescue me.

She's stronger than she looks. Scrubbing floors is surprisingly good for upper body strength

She mentioned that she comes down into the labyrinth often and I should go with her. I followed her and she led me back out to the labyrinth's exit. With my trusty map, I could have navigated my own way out, but following her was easier.

If I get captured by the blue monster a second time, she doesn't rescue me - probably because I didn't give her a second piece of jewellery. The first time I escaped I deliberately got captured a second time because I didn't have time to get the cheese before Cassima rescued me. That was a mistake.

I like the way Graham's reflection in the water works quite realistically

I reloaded and this time used the fish hook on the cheese before she showed up.

Back in the castle, I went upstairs to find Mordack's bedroom. I found the cat there, but gave him a rotting fish to keep him busy and moved on to the library. In there I read a book that had some strange pictures and symbols on them. Graham wouldn't take the book, but memorized the symbols and, according to the narrator, they might be useful later.

Who needs to memorize when I have dosbox's screenshot capability

I also entered the laboratory, where I found my captured family - but couldn't help them. I also found a strange machine.

Witness the awesome power of randomly trying all my items on a machine I know nothing about

The machine seems to have three notabale parts - a platform on each side and a cauldron in the middle. It only counts as one item for the purpose of clicking, so if I use the wand anywhere on the machine, Graham puts the wand on the platform on the right hand side. I can also use the cheese on the machine, and Graham puts it into the liquid in the middle which activates the machine - after the machine fires off some electricity for a while, Mordack then comes and kills me.

I may be dead, but you have mouldy cheese in your cauldron - good luck getting over your fungal infection!

And... now I'm stuck. I'm pretty sure I'm missing the correct item to put on the left platform of the machine - I assume I need some kind of magical power source to power Crispin's wand that's been useless for the entire game.

The two things I clearly need to do are rescue my family and kill Mordack - one likely needs to be done before the other and the machine probably helps me do one or both of them.

Both the blue monster and the cat appear randomly but can usually be avoided by either reloading and entering the room again so they randomly don't appear, or immediately leaving the way I came.

I've played for a few hours since I was first stuck and discovered some other things by reloading to various points, but nothing that's actually helped me progress.
  • Dink the furry labyrinth dweller is not always in the same place - he can appear in other dead ends.
  • I can defeat the blue monster by throwing peas at him, which causes him to slip and fall. I don't seem to be able to do anything with his body
Cartoon sound effects play while he slips on the peas
  • I can capture Manannan the cat by giving him a fish and then shoving him into the empty bag of peas. I don't seem to be able to do anything with him after that. Talking to him before capturing him or ignoring him results in his leaving and Mordack appearing and killing me a screen or two later.
For a powerful wizard Manannan is extremely easy to outsmart
  • After dispatching the cat and monster, Mordack starts to appear randomly instead. I can't do anything with him as control is immediately taken away from me and he chokes me to death
  • When Cassima rescues me from the dungeon she mentions that she often comes to the labyrinth to play with her friends, Dink and Sam. Then makes a point of saying "I don't know if you ever saw Sam or not." This makes me think I may have missed seeing Sam in the labyrinth. The problem is, I went back to every possible square and he wasn't anywhere. Either he randomly shows up, he never shows up, or there was something in the labyrinth I missed.

So once again my lack of adventure game prowess results in me asking for assistance. I'm hoping this is one of Laukku's bets so at least my being stuck will help somebody earn some CAPs. I can think of  a number of likely reasons I'm stuck - I may be wrong but the things I can think of are...
  • There is something in the labyrinth - perhaps Sam or perhaps something I haven't tried with the small wall-walking creatures. I've been to every screen there at least five times but haven't noticed anything
  • Apart from the labyrinth, there are seven screens I've been to that I haven't been able to do anything in - the two Dining Room screens, the screens on both the bottom and top of the stairs, Mordack's bedroom, the organ room and the front door outside the castle. I might be missing something in one of those screens
  • There is possibly another screen I haven't been to because I've simply not noticed an exit - perhaps another screen outside the castle
  • I've once again failed in my pixel hunting skills and there's something somewhere I should have seen and clicked on
  • I dead-ended myself before entering the island. I don't think this is the case as I suspect someone would likely have mentioned it in the comments of the previous post
Remember to code your hints/spoilers in ROT13, and start with a vague hint then get gradually more detailed.

This is my current inventory - I feel I'm missing at least one important item

Session time: 3 hours 40 minutes
Total time: 15 hours 25 minutes

Session deaths: 5
Total deaths: 35
(I haven't been counting any falling deaths that don't give either new animations or dialogue)

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!