Thursday, 26 April 2012

Game 16: Captain Blood - Abandoned!

Captain Blood Journal Entry 3: “This will be my last entry. Despite designing the game myself, I have been unable to find the duplicates and therefore unable to regain my vital fluids. Over time my health has gradually degraded and I now have the shakes so bad that I can no longer use the console accurately. My frustration in getting the required information out of the various alien races has shown me that my game would probably have failed on the commercial market anyway (accept with those Atari ST users who are very easily pleased), so I may as well go down with the ship. Captain Blood…signing out.”

Just as this previously existing planet is gone, so too has my will to continue to play this game.

I’m quitting! It has become blatantly obvious that finishing Captain Blood would take weeks (if not months) of restarting time and time again and spending hours asking ridiculous questions to aliens with a flawed communication system in the hope that some piece of unobvious yet required information might come to light. I could complain about so many aspects of this game, and I’ll spend some time doing exactly that in the Final Rating post, but I’ll now focus on the major issues that have caused me to abandon the mission. I always assumed that I would be able to complete every adventure game on the list, mostly because I could always ask for assistance from the readers or use a walkthrough if I absolutely had to. It’s disappointing to fail that expectation, but then it’s questionable as to whether Captain Blood is an adventure game at all.

After all, how many adventure games have you avoiding missiles while flying at high speeds through planetary mountains and valleys.

To fill you in on the small amount of progress I made since my last post, I need to talk about what occurred once I paid a visit to Yoko the Izwal. I’d been told to visit him by Sinox, but given no information about what I should expect there. As with all previous aliens, I was disappointingly not able to get any information out of Yoko about the duplicates, but he did keep talking about the fact his pop (aka Maxon) had been taken away and imprisoned by a “bad warrior”. He didn’t seem to know where Maxon had been taken, but he did mention that his pop had helped out the Croolis-Ulv by giving them the ability to reproduce (or something like that). He gave me the coordinates of the planet Trap 4 and the name Dead Genetic. I couldn’t see how this might help recover his pop, but with no other paths available…

Dead Genetic you say!? Now where have I head that name before?

You might recognise the name Dead Genetic if you’ve read my last couple of posts. Dead Genetic was the Croolis-Ulv that wanted me to destroy numerous Croolis-Vars in my very first attempt at playing Captain Blood. I'd failed to figure out how to get past this part of the game and eventually had restarted, thinking I could avoid it altogether by taking on a different starting point. I now know that the four or five different starts to the game need to be beaten at some point to finish Captain Blood. In fact, one of the starting points is Yoko himself.  The game just drops you in at different stages of the complete path, which really shows how little story development there is. You just go from planet to planet, asking questions about duplicates and trying to do whatever it is each character asks of you before moving on. It doesn't actually matter what order you find them in.

"Me Give You Great Information" Blah Blah Blah

I spent another hour or so trying to figure out what to do with the Croolis-Ulv and Croolis-Var, but I just couldn’t figure it out. Both sides wanted me to kill the others, but doing so didn’t result in progress. I’d asked all the questions I could think of to the numerous Croolis-Ulv and Croolis-Var, but wasn’t get any useful information. Eventually I asked the readers (see the comments section of my last post) and Lars-Erik came to my rescue. He gave me two tips, one a hint and the other an outright spoiler. The hint was “Maybe destroying isn’t the right way forward? Have you tried visitng all the planets he wants you to destroy?” I had tried that, so I moved onto the spoiler: “Visit all the planets of the Croolis-Var and the Croolis-Ulv, get their names, go back to Howdy Prison to push him for the coordinates for Great Destroy.”

Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah

I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why I might need to know all the planet names, but I’d already written them down in my notes, so I was all set on that front. I also noticed on my notes that one of the Croolis-Var (the ridiulously named Good Nonsense) had mentioned someone called Great Destroy (his exact words were “You Kill Dead Genetic. You Not Destroy Great Destroy. Great Destroy Friend Me Give Bounty. Great Destroy Give Information.”), but any questions I asked him about Great Destroy were simply ignored. I think I asked a couple more of the aliens on both sides of the war about Great Destroy with nothing coming of it. I don’t know how I was supposed to know to press Howdy Prison about Great Destroy?! What made matters worse though, was that even after I got Lars-Erik’s spoiler, I still couldn’t get the information out of Howdy Prison.

I'm running out of interesting screenshots to show you. This is what hyperspace looks like.

This is one of the major problems I have with Captain Blood. You can ask something very specific to an alien (for example, “You Know Great Destroy?”) and have them answer with either nothing or complete nonsense (“Me Destroy Enemy Laugh Laugh Curse”). You can then come back later and ask them the exact same question and have them give you the answer (“Me Know Great Destroy Like Bounty. Great Destroy Friend Croolis Var. You Kill Great Destroy. Great Destroy Planet Great Trap. Coordinate 63 / 35”). This is just not cool! Imagine playing King’s Quest and going up to the goat and typing “offer carrot to goat”, and having the game tell you “the goat just looks at you”. Then imagine, after walking around aimlessly for an hour or two, going back to the goat and typing “offer carrot to goat”, only for the game to respond favourably and the goat to follow you! Surely I’m not the only player to assume that if you ask a question once and get nothing, asking it again won’t change anything!

63 / 35 hey?! Well why didn't you tell me that hours ago!?

This happens numerous times in Captain Blood. When I had to convince the four antennas to let me teleport them, I was forced to ask them the same questions over and over until they somehow, for no particular reason, accepted the offer. If this was the only issue with the game, I’d clench my teeth, accept the challenge, and soldier on. But two subsequent events pushed me over the edge. As soon as Howdy Prison gave me the coordinates to get to Great Destroy, I saved my game and headed straight to him. After much coercing, he asked me to give him the identities of the Croolis-Ulv planets, which I accordingly did. Rather predictably, Great Destroy then directed me to another planet called Idea 762 with coordinates, but gave me no reason at all as to why I should go there or what I might expect.

This is what it looks like on the Atari ST by the way. Yes, I'm getting really low on screenshots now...

By this stage I was getting very sick of going from planet to planet with no real payoff, but it was all made worse when my cursor started jumping around all over the place. It would move around the screen uncontrollably for about six or seven seconds before giving me control again for another ten to fifteen, then do it again. I noticed that I’d just hit the two hour mark of game time, and during my research for the game I’d learnt that you need to recover vital fluids within a certain amount of time or else you’ll start to suffer side effects. Obviously the game figured I should have found at least one duplicate by now and was starting to punish me for my failure. My last (and only) save game was made at around the 112 minute mark, but instead of going back immediately, I decided to push on and see if I could find a duplicate before heading back to the save game and bee-lining to it.

Imagine trying to press the right buttons to type a message when the cursor keeps jumping all over the place!

The short of it that the occupant of Idea 762 is yet another Izwal, this time called Small Friend. He told me about his friend, called Good Friend, who lives on a planet called Small Home, and gave me the coordinates. Still no duplicate! Yet another trip through hyperspace to yet another planet to speak to yet another alien! I was well and truly bored of Captain Blood. The reward for figuring out bizarre and for the most part unsatisfying puzzles is simply to be faced with yet another one. I grit my teeth again, and headed to Small Home, promising myself that if neither of my next two destinations lead me to the first (the first!!!!!) duplicate, I was going to quit the game. Well, the first destination didn’t, after much questioning resulted in Good Friend telling me to go see a Sinox called Brain Radioactivity, with accompanying coordinates. (sigh) Good Friend! More like Good Friends!

So it was that I travelled to see this Brain Radioactivity, only for him to request the identities of the four Robhead planets. Remember the Robhead planets? Way back when I needed to appease the original Sinox by removing four Antennas from four planets, the way to get them to allow me to teleport them was to ask them about planet Robhead. Each of them gave me different coordinates, but after visiting the first two of them, it was obvious the aliens there were speaking nonsense. I didn’t bother going to the other two planets and therefore never got their names. I also didn’t record the coordinates of the unknown planets I left the Antennas on (I did on my first playthrough, but didn’t on my second playthrough after restarting) so I couldn’t go ask them again. There’s a chance I might have got the four planets’ coordinates from Sinox and then been able to visit all four Antennas on the planets I teleported them to to get the coordinates of all four Robhead planets, and then travelled to each of them to get their identities, and then come back and given them to Brain Radioactivity (deep breath), but...well...I just don’t care anymore!

Brain Radioactivity - His parents were clearly not fond of him

It wouldn’t have mattered if I did care anyway, as the shaking of my hand (the cursor) became unbearable at the 170 minute mark (literally unplayable). If I wanted to make any further progress, I was going to have to start again, and that’s just not going to happen. I spent the next twenty minutes looking at a walkthrough for the game and to be honest, I’m glad I’ve stopped. I actually missed a duplicate that I could have found hours ago and I can guarantee you that even if I’d restarted the game another ten times, I wouldn’t have found him. I know from my notes that I asked Brave Missile about duplicates several times, but apparently you need to be very persistent for him to tell you the location of one. I really wanted to see a duplicate, so I loaded my last save game, went straight to Brave Missile and started asking him about it. I reckon it took me about five minutes of asking the same questions over and over again for him to finally tell me. How can anyone be expected to be so persistent when doing something that’s merely a guess to begin with?! I also could have met Torka (the near naked woman on the cover of the US version) if I’d asked Great Bounty about Planet Spirit straight after I dumped him on an unknown planet (but not before that).

So the duplicates of Blood, who are trying to avoid being found by him, are wearing his symbol on their jacket.

The rest of the game seems to be just as ridiculous (if not more so), so I’m very happy with my decision. Certain things later only happen at certain times. You have to give one alien a code that Brave Missile only gives you if you ask him for the code specifically, even though he gave me no suggestion that he knew one. You only get the coordinates for the fifth duplicate if you promise not to kill Duplicate 1, but then you have to kill Duplicate 1 anyway (and he lets you!) to get your vital fluids. To even find Duplicate 1 to begin with apparently takes a stupendous amount of interrogation of Yoko, but once again he gave me no idea that he knew where any were. I literally need to leave the game until tomorrow before I consider giving it a final rating. I'm sure it won’t be pretty then, but it would be damn ugly if I did it right now!

Disintegrating duplicates might have been satisfying if I'd ever managed to do it without cheating

Session Time: 3 hour 00 minutes
Total Time: 9 hours 00 minutes


  1. Finally! On to Gold Rush!

    And I'm sorry you had to suffer through that, but in my defense I did vote NO on you playing Captain Blood. :p

    1. I'm still glad I played it. You don't know how good games are unless you've played the bad ones. ;)

  2. Replies
    1. I'e never played Gold Rush! so I'm pretty excited about it. :)

    2. There is a technical issue in Gold Rush that you need to be aware of. It happens whether you play it in DosBox or ScummVM.

      If you set the speed to Fast or Fastest, the elapsed time in the game does not advance. Some events are based on the elapsed time and you won't be able to progress if the time is frozen. Going back to Normal or Slow speed resumes the clock.

      I'm pretty sure once you leave Brooklyn that there are no more time issues.

  3. Ouch! I guess I wasn't that far off the mark with the "sadistic" comment.
    Now that you've played it, would you consider it an adventure worthy of the blog, regardless of its relative merits (or lack thereof)? There´s a sequel, you know :-)

    1. No, it's definitely not a true adventure game. That being said, I can understand why it has been labelled as such. It doesn't really fit into any genre classifications easily. There are not enough space simulation elements for it to be called that, there's no real strategy to it, the action is limited to landing the OORXX which is only a small portion of the game. Adventure is probably the closest fit since it does involve going from place to place, trying to solve puzzles.

  4. You know this sounds like a really cool and different concept but with a horrible implementation.

  5. Luckily you have three Sierra games to recuperate.

  6. How harsh is this game? You have to press an alien repeatedly to get information out of it, but the game doesn't give any feed back to say that the alien might know more. However it seems the designers seemed to think that wasn't enough, so marvellously they added in a time limit which not only makes the game harder to play, but also actively discourages pumping the same question to aliens to get information. What really gets the boot in however, is since it seems you need to be specific with your answer, you'd have to repeatedly ask an alien a question without knowing if you're asking the question in the right or wrong fashion but as before, you wouldn't do because you're on a time limit.

    So basically Captain Blood is a giant non-linear, slightly non-sequitur, time limited, trial and error, fetch quest? I guess this is the video game equivalent of French new wave cinema.

    Three sierra games coming up! Woo! Although one is Larry 2. So maybe we shouldn't start celebrating just yet.

    1. "So basically Captain Blood is a giant non-linear, slightly non-sequitur, time limited, trial and error, fetch quest?"

      Yep, that pretty much sums it up. You want to play it now don't you! ;)

  7. I seem to vaguely remember another adventure game that requires you to repeat questions/actions in order to progress (and gives you no feedback that you should do this). Unfortunately, I can only remember the frustration and not any details of the game at all.

    1. When you figure it out, please vote NO when we get to it. :)

    2. Space Adventure Cobra was kind of like that, but since it was almost more of an interactive graphic novel, it was wasn't all that tedious compared to what the Trickster just went through.

  8. I have to say, the game sounds like a great disappointment. It's probably closer to a simulation (trying to simulate real alien conversations) than an adventure game with actual cause/effect puzzles to solve. Maybe some intonation is lost in translation, and the alien answers give more indication if they know more or not?

    Well, I'm glad you played through it and not me. ;) Good luck with the next few. I'm not sure when you'll run across a game I've played again.

  9. Remember your post about how we suddenly started caring about you? Is it just me or did we get cruel again once Chet came back? :D

  10. And if I remember right, Captain Blood spawned two sequels! Yay I can't wait for you to try them ;)

    1. Given that neither of them are supposed to be as good as the original, I'm sure excited about it!

    2. You sir, are a masochist, though apparently not enough of one to finish this game.

  11. I actually love this game. I like that it's not easy to figure out. I played it a lot on the Amiga and almost found all five duplicates. I finally completed the game on an Amiga emulator. I really like the atmosphere of the game and the personality of the aliens.