Friday, 24 October 2014

Game 46: Countdown - Introduction

written by Aperama

The game opens with a shill scream

...And then some generic hard rock music into a title screen. COUNTDOWN!

It's almost sad to be writing instead of reading these, but I'll try my best not to let anyone be disappointed.. well, aside from the fact that we're leaving QFG2, which I've already mentioned is quite possibly my favourite game of all time. Countdown: An Interactive Movie of Intrigue, Espionage and Suspense appears to be the next in a relatively short line of games we're going to see from Access Software - A.K.A. the creators of the Tex Murphy franchise. Seeing the familiar faces of Brent Erickson -- but more importantly, Chris Jones (the face of Tex Murphy) under the 'created and designed by' column is quite heartening, I'll admit freely, as I was quite worried this one could easily be a hunk of junk! At least the story is just about guaranteed to be good. Comparing the credits of the two games, it seems that Mean Streets had quite a few extra people working on it, though - if Mobygames is to be believed, only eight people actually worked on this game, which is a little concerning to say the least. (One of them is only there for 'additional text', at that, whatever that means!) Still, I've got faith in the ability of this crew, as all of the people who are listed in this game are veterans from Mean Streets, and the majority of them returned for Martian Memorandum - so they can't have mucked up too badly.

Chris Jones - anybody who doesn't know this face by now on this blog has some catching up to do

The manual doesn't exactly give amazing amounts of detail in regards to what I'm to expect, and isn't very graphical in nature. Apparently, I'm an American Intelligence officer (not Molly Meldrum, as I had so hoped - any Australian reader can fill you in) waking up in a government subsidized asylum for 'people who know too much'. But I have that ever-so-fun plot point of amnesia to deal with! (That said, the back cover informs me a little more, telling me that I'm Mason Powers, that I've just intercepted an ultra secret message about an international terrorist group - and that the CIA Section Chief, Frank McBain, is dead - allegedly at my hands! I'm already expecting there to be several playthroughs though, as there's another listed issue - 'You have 96 hours starting 12:00 am Wed. Oct. 7. You have until Sat. Oct. 10 at midnight to solve the game.' Ooh, boy! I love it when games give me deadlines! *gag* Still, that's not to say that the deadlines are going to be impossible, right? I'm definitely not heartened by its warnings of 'save often' (a common adventure game mainstay in manuals and death screens alike) - but I'll admit that my warning klaxon does seem to be firing away at the statement that I should 'play with a friend' and that I should 'play with the lights turned down for atmosphere'. Heck. There's even a hint book ad. And a help line ad. Yeeeah... I think Trickster might have picked the right time to stand aside..

I can already tell just from this little screenshot in the manual that there's going to be some real pixel hunting pain

The game appears to be using a modified version of the Tex Murphy/Mean Streets engine, which means I at least know what I'm likely to be in for as far as an interface - somewhat clunky, but mostly effective. It also shows pictures in the manual of a familiar conversation interface, even though I'm hopeful that they've at least taken out the 'remembering everybody's full name' sections of Mean Streets... but I'm really getting ahead of myself, here. I'll let you all know ahead of time that the blogging part of this is very new to me, and the thought of taking intermittent screenshots is definitely not one I'm used to.. doubly so with a timed game. With any luck, though, I should be able to get around my troubles and just focus on getting thoroughly lost in the world of Countdown. My copy forces me to choose my interface/sound options every time I run it up, even with it 'installed', which is quite annoying - and just from a few moments of fiddling with the opening screen, I can already tell that I'm going to be cussing a great deal at the game engine, making me click multiple times on things et al - I'll try not to belabour the point, though. Anyhow. Let's get on with it!

The 1990s loved these slogans, didn't they? Did anyone ever really feel that 'they were right there'? Huh?
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 Aperama requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's an opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that Aperama won't be able to solve a puzzle without putting in an official Request for Assistance: remember to use ROT13 for betting. If you get it right, you will be rewarded with 50 CAPs in return. It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Continuing the blog without Trickster

written by Ilmari

Even if Trickster is willing to move on to new challenges, it would be shame to put The Adventure Gamer completely out of business, especially as we are just on verge of the golden age of point'n'click. Some of us readers got the idea that the blog could continue as a community effort, which sounds great, but we'll still need to figure out couple of things:

1) Who does all the administrative work, like adding the reviews into blog and putting scores into the spreadsheet?

I've already volunteered for the job, but if someone wants to become a co-admin, I'd love to share the honour.

2) Who will play the games and do reviews?

I've also said that I can play and write reviews occasionally. Still, I won't be able to do that continuously, so here the efforts of the whole community would be most required. I've already got few volunteers for a reviewer pool: Aperama, Joe Pranevich, TBD and Deimar at least have expressed interest (sorry, if I overlooked someone). Still, the more committed reviewers we get, the better. Note that I've already said that I can do the introductory post for any game, if the reviewer doesn't want to spend time for that.

3) Who will get to play what game?

Here are the games remaining for the year 1990:
Spellcasting 101: Sorcerers Get All The Girls
James Bond: The Stealth Affair
Rise of the Dragon
King's Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder!

I think it's best to figure out first what to do with these games, before thinking about the later games. So, anyone particularly interested of any of these?

4) What about scoring?

In the past, we could rely on Trickster having a consistent idea how to score the games. As a guest blogger, I noticed how hard it was to take care that the scores I gave followed the same logic as Trickster's scores. So, do we still want to score games? If so, do we still use the PISSED-system? Do we need to discuss what are the criteria for the scoring or should every reviewer just play by his/hers gut instinct?

5) What to do with CAPs?
One of the most original features of this blog has been the CAP system, and it's been an important part in bonding the TAG community. Do we still want to hold on to the system? If we do, who gets to decide who gets how many CAPs (community vote?, admins?, something else?)?

Also, while Trickster was still blogging TAG, collecting CAPs had a clear purpose, because they could be used for moving Borderline and Disregarded game to Trickster's playing list. Do we still need such a system (at least it was always fun to see what games got enough points) or is it completely useless?

So, this is what I had in mind - let the discussion begin!

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

A New Journey Awaits

I apologise for leaving this so long. It has weighed heavily on me for a few weeks, but the last thing I wanted to do was rashly pull up stumps, only to renege on the decision shortly afterwards. As you’ve likely guessed from that opening, I will not be continuing with The Adventure Gamer for the foreseeable future. Believe me when I say that this was a decision that took many months to come to. It is however one that I now feel very comfortable with.

My reasons for stopping the blog are not to do with limited time, family matters or reluctance to put the effort required in. The truth is that gaming is only one of my passions. Since I started The Adventure Gamer close to three years ago, I’ve done little else with my spare time than play and blog through 45 adventure games. My love of movies, books, TV shows, music, and most of all, other video game genres, have had to take a backseat to this strict, narrow focus. That was fine for a while, but over time I naturally started being pulled in different directions. One week it might be music, the next comics, the week after that movies. I found I was rejecting these itches and forcing myself to go back to the likes of Earthrise, Les Manley and Altered Destiny when it wasn’t really what I wanted to be doing. There was only so long this commitment could last.

I began wondering whether there might be a way to bring all my passions together, mapping out a new blog idea whilst sitting on the bus or lying in bed at night. When my family and I came back from Thailand a few weeks ago, I still had a couple of weeks of holiday time to occupy. I sat down and started a new blog. My intention was to see whether this new idea worked. Whether it felt…right. I’ve now written upwards of 20 posts, covering the whole spectrum of my interests. I feel revitalised, and genuinely excited to be able to cover new topics in differing mediums every couple of days. I can’t go back now.

So why didn’t I do this a year ago? The answer is you guys. My intention was always to build a community when I started The Adventure Gamer. I was delighted when it actually started happening, initially thanks to Chet advertising on the CRPG Addict blog, but eventually The Adventure Gamer stood up on its own and thrived. There are so many fantastic personalities here, and I felt a real responsibility to keep things going for as long as I could. I won’t mention a long list of names here, as I would undoubtedly forget someone critical to the blog’s success. I would however like to thank Lars-Erik for sponsoring the blog with games. He’s an amazingly generous and thoughtful man that I wish I knew personally. As for all the other regulars, please accept my sincere thanks for your involvement and enthusiasm. I hope at least some of you will come with me on my next endeavour.

I will respond to comments on this post for a while. I will also announce the launch of my new blog when the time comes. It will be a while though, as I’m determined to get the format right from the outset this time, and would like to have at least fifty or so posts up my sleeve from the get go. I don’t want to reveal too much about it just yet. Let’s just say that in the last few days I’ve written about Doctor Who, a surreal Japanese horror movie, an Atari 2600 video game and Wonder Woman. I’ve had a smile on my face the whole time too.

The Trickster

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Game 45: Quest for Glory II - Final Rating

I've put quite a lot of time into getting this rating right. Quest for Glory games are challenging to apply the PISSED rating system to, since some of the series' strengths (and weaknesses) are not necessarily covered by it. I've done my best to end up with the right result, although you'll notice I've played around a little bit to make sure I cover everything required. I'm sure you guys will let me know if you think I've got it right or wrong...

Puzzles and Solvability
As with all Quest for Glory games, the puzzles in part II can be approached in different ways depending on the player’s skill set. Notice I said skill set there and not class, as solutions are technically not limited to class. This open element leads to non-linearity, but it also leads to true role-playing. I actually found that the most obvious (and even logical) answer to puzzles was often one more suited to a different class. It even got me into trouble a couple of times, and in the end may have affected my chances of becoming a Paladin. I’ve been away from RPGs so long now that my tendency is to focus purely on the puzzle at hand rather than on thinking about what the character I’m playing might do. As an example, as soon as I saw the veil hanging from the battlements, I quickly climbed up into the Harem, unknowingly setting myself on the pathway towards the Thief ending. It was only when I stopped for a moment and thought “what would a fighter do” that the true Fighter solution became clear (i.e. brawn over stealth). I recall suggesting in my Hero’s Quest Final Rating post that the puzzles were a bit too simplistic, and that just about every fighter solution involved breaking or throwing something. I didn’t feel the same way whilst playing the sequel, suggesting more interesting and thought-requiring solutions. The puzzles still weren’t particularly difficult, but they often required speaking to the right people to gather information before then figuring out the correct way to use important items to reach success. As much as I’d like to, I still don’t think I can go higher than the 7 I gave the original, since that score was boosted by the game’s pioneering hybrid form.
Rating: 7

This isn't what Tricky (the character) would have done, but it is what Tricky (the player) would have done.

Interface and Inventory
The interface in Quest for Glory II is pretty much identical to the one found in Hero’s Quest. That’s no bad thing mind you, as both games give you the tools you need to focus on increasing skills, solving puzzles and unravelling mysteries, without the hassle of dodgy movement or a badly designed parser system. Speaking of the parser, it really was first rate in this game. Not only did it recognise the vast majority of my commands, its responses to even my pickiest questions seemed to be well thought out and executed. It was nice to be able to assume a way of thinking was incorrect as soon as the parser rejected a couple of commands, particularly after the nightmare that was Altered Destiny. I was able to right mouse click on just about any item in the game to get a detailed and often funny description of it, but I rarely used this feature since the visuals and parser gave me everything I really needed. It was only in the shops where there were stacks of interesting yet inconsequential items sitting around that I chose to play around with the feature. Motion was handled as well as could be expected, and the fighting, tightrope, and arm wrestling sequences were given just the right amount of simplicity whilst demanding solid player interaction (not to mention character skills) to be successful at them. When it came to moving longer distances, the magic map was both aesthetically pleasing and functional, allowing me to jump from location to location in a flash. My inventory got large very quickly, so it was just as well that the screen managed to display up to 18 items without scrolling. I was initially bummed that selecting an item within it didn’t give me a visual display, but I soon got over it.
Rating: 7

It was only once my skills were really high that I realised my inability to do certain things had nothing to do with the game's movement.

Story and Setting
I didn’t rate this category very highly for the first game (it got a 5), as I felt at the time that the player was really just dropped into a fantasy setting and told to go and do heroic things. My Hero played a role in something much bigger in the sequel. There were a few unrelated side-quests to get involved in, but the majority of conversations, quests and puzzles in Quest for Glory II made up part of the enthralling bigger picture. Unfortunately, while this would normally have resulted in a higher rating, I really need to punish the game somewhere for what I consider to be its biggest flaw. The amount of downtime I experienced, with little to do apart from grind away and wait for the next scripted event to take place was less than ideal. It’s technically a pacing issue rather than a storytelling one, but well, this seems the best place to talk about it. Not only did all this time allow me to grind my character up to an unbeatable level, therefore making all future battles completely pointless, it also resulted in me becoming just a bit bored waiting for something (anything!) to happen. What the Cole’s achieved in part II is still admirable, particularly when you consider how challenging it is to please both adventure gamers and RPG players. If you make things too open then storytelling is forced to take a backseat, yet if you really want to tell a good story, then you’ll struggle to avoid bringing in some level of linearity.  They toed the line in this game reasonably well, so overall I’m not complaining too much. A potential 7 will have to be a 6 though due to the pacing problems.
Rating: 6

Oh, and there are some serious twists in this tale too!

Sound and Graphics
I’ll start by saying that the music in Quest for Glory II is fantastic. The way Brayman and Seibert took the original theme music and gave it a Middle Eastern flavour was brilliant, and the rest of the game’s moody Arabian Nights tunes are no less so. Restoring to sections now, I realise how subtle a lot of it is. The slow, ululating tune in Zayishah’s home is perfect, and the streets never feel completely safe while the low, ominous dirge that’s overlayed with distant metallic clashes creeps along. Its good stuff and one of the reasons the game stays with people long after they’ve finished playing. On the visual front, the game did improve slightly on its predecessor, but not by the amount you might expect between releases in a series. The quick turnaround had a lot to do with that though, with the underlying technology having been modified rather than completely revamped. While this means Quest for Glory II can’t compete with the likes of The Secret of Monkey Island or Loom, its charm comes from all the minor details that the developers managed to put into it. Clearly a lot of time was spent making sure everything within both Shapeir and Raseir fit within the world they’d created. Overall I think the developers did an awesome job with the tools they had available to them, but unfortunately some of the competition of the time had already moved onto more advanced technologies.
Rating: 6

They sure did a good job making creepy people look creepy too!

Environment and Atmosphere
Quest for Glory II was an ambitious game, and it’s easy to tell while playing that the developers weren’t quite able to follow through on the original design. It’s a tale of two cities, and yet one of those cities feels rushed and incomplete, making the latter parts of the game feel a little less satisfying. The city of Shapeir may not have ended up being all that big, and was really limited to just a few useful locations, but it sure felt like a large, bustling city for newly arrived adventurers, with a seemingly endless desert surrounding it to boot. Gaming is often about perception, and Shapeir felt exciting and magical, even a little daunting at first. Raseir on the other hand was limited to just one quarter of the map size, with few inhabitants to visit and very little to do. It seemed a lost opportunity, and Corey has confirmed in his comments that they’d planned for much more. Enough said about that though. The individual locations in the game are well realised, once again perfectly capturing the spirit of the story. The various shops are filled with entertaining knick-knacks and characters, the service-oriented establishments with Middle-Eastern coloured cushions and curtains. This all helps to build the game’s strong atmosphere, with the fantasy adventure in the Middle East coming across at all times. There are few series out there that draw the player in as quickly and strongly as Quest for Glory does and I think the atmosphere in this second game is one of the things that made players remember it so fondly.
Rating: 7

If only both cities had this many locations, not to mention a magic map to travel through it.

Dialogue and Acting
I think the dialogue in Quest for Glory II is an absolute highlight. There was an incredible amount of it, and the vast majority of it is well written, entertaining, and at times downright funny. I had a running list of topics to talk to people about, and it was rare that I came across duplicate responses. The actual answer may have been the same, but each character delivered it in their own way, adding in little nuances and expressing their own personal feelings on the matter. The main characters all have their own distinctive ways of speaking, and even a few of the minor players are made memorable through their dialogue more than their actions (Alichica the forceful salesman and Keapon Laffin the crazed Magic Shop owner for example). Someone, I’m assuming Lori, must have spent hours and hours coming up with the various prophecies and poetry that flow throughout, and the game is so much better off for it. Speaking of Lori, the thing that sets her apart from the other adventure game writers of the time is that she was just as adept as making the player laugh hysterically as she was to make them shed a tear. OK, so I might not have literally reached for the Kleenex while learning of Julanar’s fate, but it was undoubtedly moving. I think she’s a very witty and talented writer that brings a feminine touch to her games whilst still pleasing the overwhelmingly male audience.
Rating: 7

This makes Quest for Glory II the only game without branching dialogue options to receive a 7.

That's 7 + 7 + 6 + 6 + 7 + 7, which equals 40, divided by 60 = 66.66, which is 67 when rounded up. I believe that's the exact rating I gave Hero's Quest, yet I'd given that game an extra discretionary point to reach 68. This time however, rather than adding a point, I've decided to take one away. As much as I enjoyed the experience overall, I don't feel I've adequately punished the game for the linearity of the final quarter and the pacing issues. This still leaves Quest for Glory II on 66, which is more than Indiana Jones and Loom, but not quite as high as Hero's Quest and Monkey Island.

Did anyone predict 66? Charles got it exactly right! It will be interesting to see whether he still feels that's the right score after playing through as a Thief. Congratulations Charles! You can take your pick from:

The King's Quest 4 + 5 + 6 Collection from GOG
The Hugo Trilogy
Space Quest 4 + 5 + 6 Collection from GOG
Leisure Suit Larry: Greatest Hits and Misses Collection from GOG
Police Quest 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 Collection from GOG

Now, after I collate the Companion Assist Points for the game in the morning, I will be taking some leave from the blog. My wife and I will be flying off to Thailand this week, but I also must admit that I've been feeling a bit burnt out during the last couple of games. I'm hoping that after some time away I will come back feeling refreshed and ready to get back into it. That may mean my next post will be in a couple of weeks, but it could also mean that it takes me longer.

50 CAPs for Corey Cole
Industry Legend Award – 50 CAPs – For sharing all the inside info

30 CAPs for JosephCurwen
True Companion Award – 20 CAPs – For playing the game along with me and completing it
CurwenPedia Award – 10 CAPs – For being a walking Islamic History buff

30 CAPs for Aperama
Shannara Award – 30 CAPs – For solving my Shannara riddle

30 CAPs for Charles
True Companion Award – 20 CAPs – For playing the game along with me and completing it
Psychic Prediction Award - 10 CAPs - For predicting the PISSED rating I would give the game

20 CAPs for Lars-Erik
Sponsor Award - 20 CAPs - For sponsoring the blog with free games

20 CAPs for Joe Pranevich
True Companion Award – 20 CAPs – For playing the game along with me and completing it

20 CAPs for Andy_Panthro
True Companion Award – 20 CAPs – For playing the game along with me and completing it

20 CAPs for sucinum
What’s Your Story Award – 20 CAPs – For sending in answers to the survey

15 CAPs for Ilmari
Meowwley Saurus Award – 10 CAPs – For winning the furry caption contest
Captain Planet Award – 5 CAPs – For correcting my elementary error

10 CAPs for TBD
Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game on GOG
Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game on GOG

10 CAPs for Laukku
Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game on Steam
Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game sale on Steam

10 CAPs for Raifield
Childhood Trauma Award – 10 CAPs – For sharing his strange yet very relevant childhood story

10 CAPs for Beraan
AZIZA Award – 10 CAPs – For explaining why Aziza was the answer to Aziza’s riddle

10 CAPs to MrValdez
Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game sale on Steam
Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game sale on Steam

5 CAPs for Canageek
Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game on Steam

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Game 45: Quest for Glory II - Won! (Part Two)

Tricky Journal Entry 9: "The Emir has been transformed, and Raseir restored to its former glory! More importantly, I've put a stop to Ad Avis' evil plot to let loose Iblis unto the world. I'm not sure there is any need for me in this land anymore, but that's OK. There's always someone, somewhere, that needs a Hero!"

What's inside?! Oh the suspense!

Having figured out the key to opening the door to the Forbidden City (which was to reflect the moonlight onto the door with my mirror), Ad Avis finally let me in on what was left of the prophecy.

“And at last the Hero ‘He who Waits Behind’ shall see,
While Iblis rises by the Dark One and the light shall flee.
By the name of Suleiman, so shall this be!”

If I wasn't under your command, I swear I'd...I'd...yes sir! Be right back, sir!

Ad Avis demanded I head inside and get Iblis, and in my hypnotised state, I had no choice but to do so. It was very hard to see anything within, so I typed “use lamp” to brighten things up. It was a cavern, and there seemed to be a strong wind blowing through it from another entrance a level up. The only way I could go was left, and doing so brought me to a green-tinged river, with waterfalls at either end. There were some stairs on the other side, so it seemed very likely that I needed to get across somehow. Using the magic rope didn’t work, so I saved my game and simply typed “jump”. The parser told me to “try jumping from the mossy bank by the falls”. It was at this point that I paid attention to the logs that sporadically flowed through the water. Could it be that I needed to hop onto one of the logs and then jump the remaining distance? I walked up to the mossy section, waited for a log to come, and then typed “jump”. Tricky jumped onto it and started surfing down the river towards the waterfall at the bottom! Lucky I had my wits about me, as I just managed to jump off before it plunged downwards.

Oh come on! Where are the realistic light and shadow effects? This is the year...oh...never mind!

Is there anything that Tricky can't do? (don't answer this)

I walked in the direction of the stairs on the other side of the water, only to be sucked towards a small opening in the wall! Tricky managed to overcome the pressure, but I wondered what the purpose of it was. For now, I scaled the stairs and walked along the pathway. It wound back to the first screen, although this time I was on the level above, where the wind was strongest. (7 points) I tried to walk towards the entrance, but was overcome, falling back down to where I started. I restored a couple of times back up to the top level, but couldn’t seem to find a way to either block the wind or force my way through it. Eventually it dawned on me that the wind might be caused by the opening that had caused me trouble earlier. I made my way back to it and typed “block hole” to see what would happen. “That’s a great idea...but how?” Clearly I was onto something, so I began looking through my inventory to see what might help. I tried stacks of things, despite being certain none of them were going to work. They didn’t. It was only when I spent some time exploring the environment a bit closer that I found typing “look at rock” gave me some useful information. “Careful examination of the airhole and the rocks above reveals that there are some loose stones that hold the structure together. There are small fissures running between its base and the rocks above.” Shortly afterwards I discovered I could hit the rocks, causing them to collapse and block the opening. “(7 points)

This part of the game really sucked!

This isn't just any ordinary rope I'll have you know. It's magic!

Take that you pesky pile of rocks!

With the opening blocked up, I was able to walk along the pathway and through the entrance. I emerged into a hellish nightmare, with bubbling lava making things very uncomfortable for me. I was tasked with moving Tricky through a maze, presumably attempting to dodge any fiery geysers on the way. I made it through unscathed, finding myself on the top level of a cavern section where a door was carved into one wall. (7 points) It looked to me like I needed to find a way to get down to the door, so I typed “use rope” once again. This time it actually worked, and I was able to climb down the rope and investigate the door. A deep voice suddenly spoke, giving me a riddle to solve: “None shall enter, None shall pass, but he who speaks the name of Power.” The name of Power? What could it be?! I didn’t think it could be Ad Avis. I tried “iblis”, and was informed that I could hear “a roar of rocks collapsing in the distance”. Hmmm, that mustn’t be it! I looked through the screenshots of the prophecy, hoping to find something that would fit the riddle. “While Iblis rises by the Dark One and the light shall flee. By the name of Suleiman, so shall this be!” Could the answer be Suleiman? It was, and the door opened. (7 points)

Could have been worse I guess. They could have been unpredictable.

I take it I could have just climbed down here if I didn't have the magic rope?

Alright already! Don't get your nickers in a knot!

The next cavern I explored seemed to contain numerous treasures hidden in the shadows. Moving close to them created enough light to reveal what they were, but unsurprisingly, attempting to pick any of them up resulted in humorous and often brutal death scenes. After suffering such atrocities as having a stalactite fall on my head and being completely vaporised, I left everything alone and walked through to doorway at the other end of the cavern. (7 points) On the next screen I found what I was after! “A glow illuminates this chamber. It flows from an object atop the strange structure before you. At the sight of the glowing object you feel irresistibly drawn forward. Your feet seem to move with a will of their own. As you draw near, you see that the object is a statue made of crystal. A dark, shapeless form stirs within it. The crystal’s cool glow is numbing. You feel compelled to pick it up, but as you reach are suddenly unable to move.” Ad Avis appeared out of nowhere, grabbing Iblis from atop the pedestal. “Fool! Some hero you are! A pawn of the very man you sought to destroy. Thanks to your help, I now have that through which I can summon the greatest destructive power ever known – Iblis himself! Tonight, as the moon arises between the Scorpion’s Claws and the Dragon’s Teeth, I shall begin the ritual that shall make me the Master! I will control Iblis, and thus control the world. While you, pawn of Prophecy, shall remain behind in this tomb. You shall be, ‘He Who Waits Behind.’”

Ooohhhh, what have we got here? Don't mind if I *zap*

Yeah, good story. Have you thought about what you might do once you've unleashed the "greatest destructive power ever known"?

None of this sounded good of course, and it got a whole lot worse when Ad Avis cast a spell that brought a pile of rubble down in front of the door. He vanished, leaving me to ponder how I might ever escape. I tried shifting the rubble, but even my great strength was not enough. As I walked towards the bottom of the screen, something flashed in the darkness. It was some sort of ring, and when I picked it up I found it had the inscription “He Who Waits Behind” on it. (7 points) I put it on my finger, and a large pink Djinni popped into existence! “I may grant you three wishes, Oh Master of the Ring. What is your first wish?” Three wishes was awesome, but there was only one thing I could think of that I needed. I typed “escape”, and got the following response from the friendly Djinni: “Well, I can kind of grant you that wish, but it has two problems. First, I can only teleport you to where Iblis is now, and second, it’s the last wish I can grant. You’ll have to make all of your other wishes first.” What else did I really need? The aim of the game was to save Arus, so perhaps the Djinni could transform him back into the Emir? I typed “wish for arus free”, but it didn’t achieve anything. In the end the only thing I could think to do was to wish for “strength”, since a fighter can never have too much of that! I gained 50 Strength points in the process, and after being told Honor points were the one thing the Djinni couldn’t grant me, got 50 Vitality points for good measure.

I wish to know whether or not you are related to the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

I may have needed a helping hand, but at least I got one of my stats to over 200.

With my stats now being at a completely stupid level, I once again asked the Djinni to help me escape. The big pink thing spoke the following words: “In the name of Suleiman bin Daoud, the Binder, and by my Power as He Who Waits Behind: Take us to Iblis!” The Djinni rather humorously seemed stunned when his magic worked, but even then I was transported to outside the Sultan’s Palace rather than to Ad Avis’ exact location. Before I could take a step towards the Palace, there was a soft whisper from one the alleyways off the plaza. It was Sharaf, and he approached me to inform me of the Underground’s intentions: “The UnderGround is prepared to attack the Palace. If you need to enter there, we will provide some distraction for you. However, we are almost ready, so you must hurry before you are caught in our battle.” He snuck away at this point, leaving me to find my own way into the Palace. There were two guards at the main gate, and there was also a Eunuch walking back and forth along the parapet. What really caught my attention though was the blue veil that was hanging there, as I was immediately reminded of Mayzun’s (the servant to the Emir’s daughter) suggestion that she would “tie a veil from the battlements at night to guide you”. The Harem must be close by, but how to get there?

Given it's your one purpose for existing,...well, good on you!

Because all Eunuchs walk around pretty much naked.

I decided to see what would happen if I tried a more direct approach, so walked up to the guards. They immediately called for help, and I was quickly swarmed by five other guards that stormed through the gates. Without any chance of fighting my way out of trouble, I was informed that I was overwhelmed, and then shown an end game animation of a gigantic Iblis destroying Raseir and presumably the world. It seemed to me that I was going to have to take a more stealthy approach, despite my fighter class, so tried climbing up to the top level instead. “The pillars are too slick to climb.” Was this another opportunity to use my magic rope? It sure was, and after a failed attempt where I got the timing wrong and was caught by the Eunuch, I managed to climb up and then through a window to the left of screen.

Clearly this is not the way through. Right? Right?!

Hey, Iblis is awesome! I wanna see him rampage across the world!

This magic rope lets me get into lots of places...and trouble I might add.

Through the window was the Harem, with stacks of scantily clothed women sitting around waiting to be called upon. Mayzun recognised me and informed the others that I was the Hero that had aided Zayishah. The next few minutes were split between being told valuable information by Mayzun, being complimented and rather aggressively checked out by the other women, and hiding behind the curtains to avoid being found by the Eunuch. The women’s comments were pretty funny really, with one in particular, Nawar, turning everything to sex. The crux of the matter was that Ad Avis could be seen from the balcony off the next room, and that I would need to sneak through without distracting any of the Eunuchs. Thankfully it was the seductive Nawar that offered to help me avoid detection, by drawing the attention of one of the Eunuchs. Then it was just a matter of hiding behind pieces of furniture whenever another Eunuch was close by. The Djinni, who was still hanging around apparently, informed me if I tried to move at the wrong time, so it was only a matter of time before I reached the room’s exit.

Nawar is a completely awesome character that I hope turns up in the sequels.

I wish this part had actually involved skill rather than just being scripted.

Through that door I found Ad Avis, conducting some sort of ritual! Iblis was in the centre of a pentagram, with candles set out at each point. The Djinni warned me that when all the candles were lit, Iblis would be let loose, yet there was a large gap between the platform I was standing on and the one on which the ritual was taking place. I did the only thing I could think of and typed “use rope” again. Once again it worked, and I was then able to tightrope across without Ad Avis noticing I was there. By the time I’d walked across, the majority of the candles were lit, so I was going to have the act fast. That wasn’t going to be easy though, as the Djinni had some bad news for me: “There is some sort of spell between the pillars. It won’t let any magic or anything alive get through from outside.” I tried using the Bellows to blow out the candles, only to find that the Air Elemental was no longer in it. I tried throwing water at the candles, only to be told that wetting them wouldn’t stop the magic at work. I tried throwing some dirt at the candles, and... it worked! The last candle was bumped away from the pentagram, ruining the ritual!

Well it sure is climactic!

Um, yes. I have to admit that I'm feeling a bit vulnerable right now.

Ad Avis was understandably quite cross that I ruined his plans: “NO!! After 70 years, No!” He began casting fireballs at me, which I was able to evade by typing “duck” at the right times. I figured out that I could shimmy across the ledge I was on to get closer to my target, but I still had no idea what I would do when I got there. Once I was standing right in front of him but still blocked by the magic wall, I tried throwing pretty much everything I had at Ad Avis. The only thing that worked was the dirt, but he simply laughed off that attempt at doing damage: “Ha! You think to win this campaign by slinging mud?!” I admit to being stuck here for a long time, trying to figure out what the hell I was supposed to be doing. Surely I wasn’t dead ended was I? I didn’t think there were any dead ends in Quest for Glory games, yet it seemed to me that I really needed a dagger or something else pointy to throw. There’s no way I could be expected to restore back to Shapeir to buy a few daggers?! After trying everything imaginable (and after restoring back to the Djinni and unsuccessfully wishing for daggers), I decided to restore back to the Palace entrance before taking any drastic action. Perhaps there was another way to approach the game’s climax.

Alright, no need to make fun of me. Can't you see I'm desperate!

It took me approximately ten seconds to find an alternate way into the Palace, and it was one that I was put off trying earlier due to being surrounded by guards. Instead of walking up to the guards and having them draw the attention of more, I simply typed “fight guards”. This somehow allowed me to take the two guards on without them hollering for help. They were easy meat for me of course, but the Eunuch above wasn’t all that impressed. He began calling for more help, but I quickly ran up to the gates and forced them open. (5 points) The Djinni apparently led me through the Palace to a room where Khaveen stood guard. A closed door would take me to where Ad Avis was working his dark magic, but first I would need to deal with Khaveen. I climbed down the curtains and confronted him. The battle that followed was over in a flash, so I raced to the door to go stop Ad Avis. (15 points)

In this case words were required before actions.

Another impressive looking warrior goes down in a heap.

The first time I tried to open the door I received some sort of magical shock, but after that I was able to break through to witness Ad Avis’ ritual from a completely different angle. One new thing I could see was a statue containing four arms and wings on its back. As I walked towards the pentagram, I triggered a spell that caused the statue to attack me. Strangely, despite all my ability, none of my swings or thrusts seemed to hit the statue, yet the candles were being lit one by one. I tried something I’d only done on one other occasion in the game, being way back when I was out in the desert and out of stamina. I typed “escape”, and managed to escape the clutches of the statue in time to go and knock the unlit candle over.

Can this guy be defeated with a sword?

Ad Avis screamed at me: “You! My spell is broken! You will die!” I raced towards him, knocking a brazier over in the process. A fire raged, but I was determined to get close enough to use my sword. I ran through the fire and to my surprise, knocked Ad Avis over the edge and presumably to his death way below. (15 points) The Djinni reappeared and collected Iblis: “Thank you, Master. Now I can take Iblis back to his tomb where he will be safe for another thousand years and a year.” All this action somehow made the Djinni recall the real prophecy too:

“One thousand years and a Year, so shall Iblis be caught,
In the tombstones of the City, where he and I once faught.
Until moonlight has been captured, twixt the Scorpion and Drake,
Then comes a hero from the North, and ancient powers wake.

Led and followed by a Dark one, guide to deceit and despair,
Passing through the Trial by Fire, Trials of Water, Earth and Air;
Passing through the Door unopened, barrier that yields to none,
By my name of Suleiman, so shall this be done!

Come at last unto betrayal, and to He Who Waits Behind,
Seek ye then to capture Iblis, ‘ere he rises unconfined.
Else shall come the night eternal, darkness overshadows Light,
Unless a hero seeks the darkness, and restores the wrongs to right.”

Ain't gravity a bitch.

I find these shit-eating-grin moments extremely satisfying.

Ad Avis had been stopped, but my quest was not yet complete. After being told that Emir Ali was found cowering in his bedroom, he was coaxed into ordering all fighting to cease, and that he would restore the city to its former glory. Tricky was shown pouring the Water Elemental into the dried up fountain, and since it was now under his command, it magically restored the city entirely. At this point Abdulla, Shema and Shameen arrived on their magic carpet to take me back to Shapeir to see the Sultan. This made me wonder why I didn’t just travel to Raseir by carpet in the first place, but I can forgive that plot hole.

Yes, I know I called you a watery tart earlier on, but I was just feeling emotional at the time.

So...about that caravan you made me travel with...

A lengthy outro took place in the Palace of the Sultan, with Tricky standing before the Sultan to be judged. The Sultan asked if anyone would speak for him, and seemingly everyone wanted a turn. Firstly, Shema and Shameen spoke of Tricky’s exploits in Spielburg, announcing that he was a true hero. Secondly, Walid the warrior spoke about Tricky’s mercy, as he’d let the man live in the Eternal Order of Fighters headquarters despite being commanded to kill. Next it was Aziza, who described how Tricky had sought out the plant-woman Julanar in the desert and helped her to forget her pain and suffering. Zayishah stood up next, to let everyone know about the aid Tricky had given her in her time of need. Not to be left out, Emir Arus wanted to say something, but he still had the form of a saurus. Tricky gave him a dispel potion, and after transforming back into his normal self, the Emir talked about the Hero’s courage, kindness and honor. Speaking of honor, I was very keen to find out whether or not I’d done enough to become a Paladin. It was the Sultan himself that spoke for Tricky’s honor, and in a huge twist, it turned out that the Poet Omar was the Sultan all along! “By the words which have been spoken, by the deeds that have been done, I proclaim this man a Hero, I now call this man my son.”

Hey, even the Poet Omar came to thank me. Um...where's the Sultan?

Shema loves me.

Walid loves me.

Aziza loves me.

Zayishah loves me.

The Emir loves me.

The Poet...ahem...Sultan loves me.

So why no Paladin?! Waaaahhhhh!!!!!!

I received a screen congratulating me on my success and telling me I’d got 480 of the possible 500 Puzzle Points, and I was then given the opportunity to save my character to use in Quest for Glory III. I'll try to keep this save game this time. There was no mention of me being or not being a Paladin, so I can only think that despite all my efforts, I wasn’t found worthy. Can anyone tell me what I did wrong? Final Rating post will be up in the next few days...

It will probably be hard to pinpoint what I missed in this game. Anyone?

I can't wait to play Quest for Glory III: Shadows of... hey, hang on a second. That's not right! Corey?!

Session Time: 2 hours 00 minutes
Total Time: 16 hours 30 minutes