Thursday, 10 October 2013

Game 36: Hugo's House of Horrors - Introduction


This is the version I think I'll be playing...maybe

As pleased as I am that I have no more MacVenture games to grit my teeth through, there are undoubtedly loads more terrible adventure games waiting for me on the playlist (particularly if Canageek has his way!). As strange as it might seem though, I know from experience that it’s not impossible for a terrible game to still be somewhat enjoyable, particularly when it comes to blogging. I’ve had a think about it, and I’ve come up with four things that need to be in place for a truly bad game to be tolerable, if not a complete delight to play. 1. They mustn’t be too buggy, 2. They must be reasonably short, 3. They must at least make sense (I’m looking at you Captain Blood), and 4. They must be really, really bad (yay for Psycho!!!). I’m therefore a little bit excited about the 36th game on the list, as the small amount I know about it gives me hope that it might be all four! Hugo’s House of Horrors was released by Gray Design Associates on the 1st day of January, 1990. It’s a game that has a surprising amount of fans (despite rating rather poorly) for one particular reason. You’ll have to read on to find out what it is, but first, let’s go back to the beginning!


David Gray

In 1988, David P. Gray was writing air traffic control software at Raytheon, Massachusetts. He’d previously written underwater weaponry software for the UK Ministry of Defence too. This might sound like exciting stuff, but David wasn’t completely convinced that his future financial success was assured. He wanted to start his own business doing something, but he wasn’t entirely sure what that something would be. In 1989 he had a chance encounter with a gynaecologist (at a party I might add), who informed him that he’d been developing programs using BASIC on his home PC, and was now selling them all over the world for a stack of cash. This inspired David to try his hand at creating his own software, and since he was a fan of computer games (we’ll discuss which ones a bit later on), decided he’d try to make one by himself. For three months, he banged away at his computer, programming an adventure game using Microsoft Quick C, with graphics created in Z–Soft Paint, and sound that was transcribed by hand. Despite noting how many names there were in the credits of his favourite games, David required no help at all, and eventually named his creation Hugo’s House of Horrors!


He made a game with this? Respect!

The plot of Hugo’s House of Horrors was pretty straight forward. The protagonist, named Hugo, must rescue his girlfriend from an evil scientist living in a haunted house. Sound familiar?! That’s likely because Maniac Mansion, which came out three years prior, had exactly the same plot. In that game, the protagonist, named Dave, also had to rescue his girlfriend from an evil scientist living in a haunted house. The only differences between the plots on a high level were the names of the characters and the method in which the girlfriends arrived at the house (Penelope was babysitting in Hugo’s whereas Sandy was kidnapped from school in Maniac Mansion). Despite the very obvious similarities, not to many numerous articles claiming otherwise, David remains adamant to this day that he never played Maniac Mansion, and still hasn’t. He wasn’t even aware of the LucasArts classic when he made his game! If he’s to be believed, and I see no particular reason why he shouldn’t be, the biggest inspirations for Hugo’s House of Horrors were Leisure Suit Larry and a shareware game called Captain Comic. The horror theme hatched from his love of Hammer House of Horror (hence the haunted house and the evil mad scientist named Hammerstein). Perhaps I’ll have more of an opinion on all this once I’ve played the game myself.


Captain Comic: Another shareware classic

Now to the reason why so many people played Hugo’s House of Horrors back in the early nineties. It was free! Well, it was shareware anyway, meaning you were supposed to pay for it, but you didn’t have to. Many people don’t realise that the game was actually released commercially as well, but David made six times more money through the shareware avenue than the commercial one (at least initially). The game was also family-friendly, which meant that lots of parents could play it alongside their children (unlike its main inspiration, Leisure Suit Larry, which was very adult focussed). Dozens of shareware distributors picked up the game and started selling it in mail order catalogues, and more and more vendors began selling it commercially (giving David a royalty for each sale). Finally in 1992, a company called Sofsource released the game into retail stores, resulting in more sales than ever. By this point David was earning twice what his day job was paying from the game’s sales, so decided to become self-employed. More games would follow, but they’ll likely be discussed another time.


The cover doesn't exactly scream quality

I didn’t actually own a copy, so solving Canageek’s recent Escape from New York riddle got me one…or so I thought. Unfortunately, David appears to have put a time limit on downloading purchased copies of the Hugo Trilogy on his website, meaning it’s no longer possible to download the copies that Lars-Erik purchased for the blog. I decided I could afford the $10 it costs to purchase it myself, and have done so. However, I now realise that this got me the Windows version of the game rather than the DOS version! There may or may not be many differences between the two versions, but cranking them up made a few apparent on the very first screen (the music is vastly better and moving the cursor over items reveals what they are in more instances). I've therefore decided to play a downloaded DOS version anyway (I'm sure David will forgive me). This version contains a text only manual, but there really isn't anything in there worth mentioning. The Windows version contains a hint guide, but I have no intention of looking at that, so can't comment on it. Enough chat though! It’s time to enter the haunted house to save Penelope! Since no-one actually forced me to play this game (it qualified all on its own), I'm not going to pressure anyone. I hope some of you will join me for the ride though. Anyone?


Wow! It really does look like a cross between Sierra and LucasArts!

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There's a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's an opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that I won't be able to solve a puzzle unassisted (see below for an example). If you get it right I will reward you with 150 CAPs in return (it's going to keep going up until someone beats me)! 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.

Example Bet:

Sebz gur ynaq bs vpr jr tb
Jvgu Fpnaqvanivna va gbj
Naq lrg vg frrzf jr’er abg nybar
N zbafgre evcf bhe syrfu naq obar

Jub nz V sbe 20 PNCf?

Extra Note: Once again, Lars-Erik will gift the next readily available game on the list to the reader that correctly predicts what score I will give this game. So, if you predict the right score (or are closest), you will get 10 CAPs and a copy of Loom from Steam! How awesome is that!? Good luck!

53 comments:

  1. I thought I'd briefly comment on the results of the survey I've had up for the last couple of weeks. (What's your favourite game of 1989?)

    It was no surprise to find Hero's Quest and Indiana Jones taking 60% of the votes, but the race for third place was closer than I'd expected. Mean Streets and The Colonel's Bequest both received 8 votes to finish tied for third, while Space Quest III was just behind on 7.

    Probably the biggest surprise to me though (no, I totally expected a few smartasses to vote for Emmanuelle), was how few votes Larry III got. I thought it was damn entertaining and might have a few avid fans. Oh well, I guess Larry will always be the underdog!

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  2. One of the few games on the list that I've actually played! I didn't get beyond the second room, as I have a learning disability that makes spelling rather challenging, so when I was young I couldn't figure out the commands I wanted to help, and everyone around me was too busy to tell me how to spell things. So yeah, didn't get very far.

    If a game this bad can make so much money, it is kind of sad there weren't more good shareware adventure games.

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  3. I'm going to predict 25 for the score.

    Also, I'm risking 10 CAPs and making a bet: Gevpxfgre jvyy or fghzcrq ol ng yrnfg bar bs gur byq zna'f gevivn dhrfgvbaf naq unf gb frnepu sbe gur nafjre bhgfvqr gur tnzr.

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  4. I'll go with a 30, the same score as Uninvited, though I bet you rated that one too high.
    Furthermore I bet that by the time you read this comment the US has collapsed and we are all Mad Max style wasteland raiders, driving around in hot rod V8s and playing adventure games on laptops under the desert sky. Well, except for those of you in Australia, you'll be fine, which is a bit ironic as that was where Mad Max was made. By the way, did you know that when you resort to cannibalism you should start eating from the buttocks? The most fat and energy apparently. Something to keep in mind as the world collapses.

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    Replies
    1. DAMMIT, I forgot to put it in ROT13 and drive Trickster nuts wondering how I made a bet that detailed. *headdesk* So much for that joke.

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  5. I have not played it yet, but I'm guessing 29 and joining you.

    Too bad the download link expired, but as I bought three copies I guess I could have just emailed you the game I downloaded while it was still active. Not sure if I'll play along with the Windows-version though, will we be picking this one up again as a re-release?

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  6. I didn’t have any problems downloading the game – guess I did it early enough (BTW, I thought the download should have contained also the original DOS versions, or at least that’s what it says on the official page).

    I’ve never played the game before, so I’ll be glad to join and see what it’s like, although I'll probably play the Windows-version. I have no idea how good a game it will be, but I’ll guess 35.

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  7. Going with 28! I've played the beginning so far and it's silly and charming and, uh, still pretty bad. I'm hoping the charm and the fact that it was a one person job will give it a boost.

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  8. Is the answer to the riddle Cuvyvc sebz gur Crahzoen frevrf? Haven't played the series, so it's just a wild guess.

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    Replies
    1. I'd guess Cevfbare bs Vpr (at least there's Norwegian, Antarctic and monsters).

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    2. And the character would be Yg. Elna.

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    3. Lt. Ryan is correct! Ilmari strikes again. 20 CAPs coming your way!

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  9. Random number guessing time! I'll go with 33.

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  10. Going with 31. Hopefully I will have some time to play along!

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  11. I'll guess 34. One point better than the last!

    I'm planning to play Loom along with you, so it would be nice to get it for free instead of having to buy it. But you know, either way.

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  12. This seems so bad that it could be good. I'm going with 27 and I'll try to play along even (although not sure which version at the moment...)

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  13. I'm going with a final score of 26.

    I played the shareware version many moons ago, and I seem to remember it being not very good. Couldn't tell you exactly why though, but I expect that it compared poorly to the Sierra and Lucasarts games that I had played previously.

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  14. I'm going to guess 36. It has to be better than that last disaster of what we'll hesitantly call a game because I couldn't be bothered coming up with a better adjective, and 34 and 35 have been taken and I like to be first with my score prediction.
    So is this the first shareware game played on the blog? Are there going to be many more? I know I could look myself but I figure there is someone here who already knows :)

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  15. I'll pick 37. I have no reason for that other than the number "37" popped into my head. I would like to play LOOM again; I only played it once at Sierra. Looking forward to reading your play notes.

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  16. I haven't played this since I was a teenager, but remember it being fun and short. I'm curious to see how it turns out since I remember virtually no details.

    I'll pick 28 at random with no real reason. Looks like someone picked it, but almost every number in the 25 - 40 range has been chosen.

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  17. More fantastic news form GOG!

    Legend of Kyrandia: Hand of Fate and Legend of Kyrandia: Malcolm's Revenge have been added to the site.

    Right now you can get all three games for $11.97! I couldn't resist.

    http://www.gog.com/promo/legend_of_kyrandia_series_launch_discount_101013

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    Replies
    1. BAD! You know well enough that it'll probably be on a far bigger sale within not days from now! (Just doing my part, naturally.) ;)

      36. Why? Because unlike Deja Vu 2 it won't leave a bad taste in your mouth. Just.. a very difficult to blog about experience. I predict 3 more posts - gameplay focus, won and final rating.

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    2. Though, if you buy it now you get a copy of The Witcher with it. While there are some valid complaints about the sexism in some parts, and the gameplay isn't great the story so far is pretty interesting, and the roleplay and investigation is actually quite challenging; if you just follow it point by point like a normal fetch quest RPG you'll close off sections of the game by annoying the wrong people (Que me loading an 8 hour old save)(

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    3. Also, The Testament of Sherlock Homes is in this weeks weekly Humble Bundle. Also I realized that this should count as a steam sale since you get a steam key for the game as one of the options, so HAH! (Can I have CAPS for the ones I pointed out in past? http://advgamer.blogspot.ca/2013/04/whats-your-story-pacpix.html?showComment=1366164226580#c6528598777517013036 http://advgamer.blogspot.ca/2013/05/game-32-neuromancer-packing-gaijin.html?showComment=1370029012442#c3457216226402782080 http://advgamer.blogspot.ca/2012/11/game-25-codename-iceman-pixilation.html?showComment=1353081564214#c6806121751495046080 Oh and Lars-Erik should get some too: http://advgamer.blogspot.ca/2013/08/game-34-colonels-bequest-death-in-family.html?showComment=1376747770264#c7198909170744953143

      *cough*) Anyway here is the main link

      https://www.humblebundle.com/weekly?focus_weekly

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    4. I think such a shameless grab for more CAPS should result in half you're CAPS transferring straight to me which would place me third in the CAPS distribution table, currently held by...now let me see...hmmm. oh it's you. Therefore you forfeit you're position to me as well. Justice is served and of course this is in no way a shameless pursuit of CAPS, it's rather shameful really.

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    5. Thanks Canageek, I'd forgotten to check this weeks Humble Bundle. Good catch, bought it!

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    6. I just finished The Witcher a couple weeks ago. Definitely a fun experience. It's not a grindfest and the combat is pretty repetitive. The story and the quests are most compelling. Looking forward to playing the 2nd one. I was also thinking about the Humble Weekly Sale, but the Testament of Sherlock Holmes is the only game I don't have that I actually want in that sale.

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  18. 24! Because it hasn't been picked and I read a review for a Hugo game recently (I think someone on this blog pointed it out) and it sounded terrible, but entertaining in its badness. Not sure if it was this one or Hugo 2 though.

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  19. Boy this is bad. I've been playing for about 20 minutes and I already have a third of the total possible points. No clue what to do next though... so far the funniest thing that's happened was a weird clipping bug.

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    Replies
    1. I've just scouted the environment and collected some items. Writing is a bit bland: I wish the author would have found some variation for "useful".

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    2. Now I already have over half of the points - I think I'll continue tomorrow. The Windows version makes it pretty easy, when I can immediately see what objects I can interact with. And considering that this is supposed to be family fun, the game has pretty gruesome deaths.

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    3. Ended up running the DOS version 2.0r. Interestingly it still has a magenta CGA title screen.

      If the scores are anything to go by it's truly short. I ran up 107 of 190 points really fast, but hitting a snag at this point where I don't know what I'm missing to move on. Going to keep trying without hints or spoilers though.

      One annoying thing is the combination of poor descriptions of your surroundings with a less than helpful text parser and undetailed graphics. It makes it hard to know what you're looking for and what things are.

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    4. I'm also playing 2.0r, stuck at the moment.

      I think the parser does its job, but the generally lousy feedback is the killer here. At least one item didn't produce any description whatsoever and I had to identify it by guesswork to be able to pick it up (the graphic of the item in question is very poor even by this game's standards).

      The abominable character pathfinding is also the source of much laughter/frustration...

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    5. In case my bet makes me lose 10 CAPs, I downloaded the freeware DOS version (v2.1 from here - that's a perfectly legal site that only offers freeware/shareware games) and played through it for easy CAPs. I had already watched a YouTube playthrough, so I knew what to do.

      Although the controls resemble Sierra's SCI, they were much clumsier. 5 doesn't stop the character, typing doesn't pause the game, and so on...

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    6. You can stop the character by pressing the arrow key in the same direction you are walking. So one press=go, another press=stop.

      Since we're in 1990 I went back to DOS version 1.1 instead. Somehow I only got 99 points at the same spot I earlier had 107, not sure if I missed something (I have all the same items) or if there's a difference between versions.

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    7. Charles: I can imagine how annoying that would be. In Windows-version you just move the cursor on the item and the game tells its name - and if there's no name, you know it's just scenery. An improvement, but it really shows how small the game is. I probably wouldn't have noticed an important object (pnecrg) without this feature and would be cursing like hell, wondering what to do.

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    8. Lars-Erik: So DOS has 190 points? Windows-version states that the maximum is 200.

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    9. Yep, unless it goes to "200 of 190" in score. Both version 2.0 and 1.1 use "of 190".

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    10. Is anybody past onfrzrag jvgu gur ybpxrq qbbe? I am at loss what to do next.

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    11. Oh you have got to be kidding me, THAT was where I needed to go? *grumblegrumble*

      And here comes text parser happy fun times. Spoilers:
      Obgu "yrnir obng" naq "rkvg obng" tvirf lbh n zrffntr gung Uhtb qbrfa'g haqrefgnaq lbh. "Ragre qbpx" raqf hc va n "BX" zrffntr, ohg abguvat unccraf. Jevgvat "pyvzo nfuber" be "pyvzo bhg" tvirf lbh n zrffntr gung fnlf "Lbh gel ohg lbh snvy zvfrenoyl" juvpu znxrf lbh guvax gung lbh ner ba gur evtug genpx ohg ner zvffvat fbzrguvat, rira gubhtu nsgre 241 gevrf V sbhaq bhg gung gur nafjre vf nf rnfl nf "trg bhg bs obng"!

      ARGH!

      And I'm done! I did have to google one bit, where I hit Laukkus bet, although I didn't need a walkthrough. I'm guessing we're going to have a new fourth place on the CAP leaderboard!

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    12. Ilmari, that's where I got stuck yesterday too.
      Hint: Gur nafjre vf va gur ebbz lbh'er pheeragyl va.
      Spoiler: Gurer'f n cngujnl orgjrra gur gur ebpxf ng gur onpx jnyy. Tb orgjrra gurz.

      Oh, and I had to go back to the 2.0 version, as the 1.1 shareware couldn't be completed (unrelated to your current puzzle).

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    13. Back on track again, although I do hate these navigation problems - gur rkvg orgjrra gjb ebpxf vf uvqqra gbb jryy.

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    14. Lars-Erik: I know that, I was just listing it as an example.

      Glad that at least one person got stuck in the place I bet, bwahaha! :-)

      Delete
  20. So I just finished the game and only had to google gur byq zna'f Ebl Ebtref dhrfgvba (Rira ol guvf tnzr'f eryrnfr lrne V'z fher guvf jnf n irel hasnve dhrfgvba...). Only got like 187 points, probably because I kind of cheated (V whfg tbg gur zhzzl fghpx orgjrra gur ebpxf naq tbg bhg bs gur ebbz jvgu gur zbarl)

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    Replies
    1. I did exactly the same and got the full 190 (DOS version). Is there another way to do it?

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    2. No, that's exactly what you're supposed to do.

      I myself missed 2 points because I didn't cvpx hc gur chzcxva orsber bcravat vg ng gur irel ortvaavat.

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    3. Oh, well. It seemed quite cheap at the moment. Then I don't know where I missed those points...

      Delete
  21. Solved the Windows version with full 200 points. After the bit with which Lars-Erik helped it was quite simple, although I did spend some time with gur zhzzl and googled where everyone else did also. And I managed to find a bug that znqr zr jnyx ba jngre naq abg noyr gb jnyx ba ynaq, which forced me to restore way back.

    All in all, it wasn't as bad as I expected. Not really memorable, but fine for a shareware game.

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  22. This looks like a 29 , that's my guess as well. I'm actually tempted to give it a go myself!

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  23. If you want to play along, Hugo's can be streamed from Archive.org at: https://archive.org/details/msdos_Hugos_House_of_Horrors_1990

    Note that you can't save in the streaming version of DOSBOX they use, but if you want to give it a go with zero set up, give it a try.

    Also, since it was shareware you can download v1.1 to v2.1 inclusive from https://archive.org/details/HugosHouseOfHorrors

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