Friday, 27 December 2013

Game 39: Earthrise - Suicide Machine

Captain's Log, Entry 1: "I've reached Solus and have made my way down to the surface of the asteroid. I've seen no sign of life so far, but have journeyed no further than the radio antenna. It seems to be functional, but I am unable to access either the electrical box at the base or the gear box at the summit. It appears as though someone didn't want the current settings adjusted, and I plan to find out who it was and why. I'm preparing to explore further...oh shit...I don't think I filled up my oxygen tank! Dammit! That schoolboy error may just cost me my life! I better...see...if I can...uugghh........"

Oh cool, so that's where I was heading?! I must have missed the briefing. I wonder why I'm here?

I commented on the introduction post that the in-game intro seems to be missing in the version of Earthrise that I’m playing. Either that or there actually isn’t one and the only way to understand the lead-up to the starting point is to read the manual, which I don’t have. I did however find the following on an abandonware site, which Ilmari has since pointed out is from the back of the box. “Attention: Guild Investigator. All contact with our mining colony on Solus has been lost. The mechanically propelled asteroid is now traveling out of control, and Solus is predicted to collide with Earth - unless the main engines are restarted in time. Report to Mining Guild HQ immediately for your assignment. That was all the message from the main office had to say. Why do you always get the tough assignments? After all, your solution to the Ursula IX incident was really just a matter of luck: But now as the Mining Guild's top investigator, it's up to you to save the company billions of dollars- and possibly billions of lives!” From this I gather that humans have actually started mining asteroids for minerals and are somehow able to control the movements of the asteroids through some sort of propulsion system. So all I need to do to save Earth is land on the asteroid that’s heading our way and then restart the engines. Shouldn’t be too hard right!?

Hey! Where's the token hot chick!? You don't expect me to do this without one do you?

Earthrise started with an almost black screen. Only a few lights could be seen, and I was given the following information: “You have been asleep in this darkened room for six weeks. Your shuttle has finally reached the asteroid Solus, and placed you in orbit.” The life support systems and the lights then came on, and I was awoken from my slumber by some sort of alarm system. As I stood up, one thing crossed my mind above all else. Wow, these graphics are really old school! Once I got past that initial shock, I figured I should see how things worked in this newly experienced environment. I typed “look”, and was happy to find that I could get a pretty detailed description of my surroundings by doing so. I was standing in the cryofreeze room of the shuttle, and immediately began investigating the objects around me. I began by checking out the other cryofreeze unit, thinking that there might be signs of another astronaut having come along on this quest. There were none, and in fact the other unit was non-functional. The status panel on the wall confirmed what I’d just discovered, telling me that only one of the cryofreeze units was in working order. The cabinet in the corner of the room was empty too, making my starting room search a bit of a non-event. I decided to explore the floor I was on before I would consider climbing the ladder to what I assumed would be another level, so made my way through the door to the right.

Yeah, I know. But I wasn't chosen for my looks alright!

The door led to the ship’s computer center, where a huge computer took up an entire wall. Its funny how people assumed back in the day that computers would get bigger and bigger the more powerful they got. I didn’t appear to be able to do anything with the computer, other than confirming that it was currently in perfect working order. Continuing to the right of screen, I came upon a fuel storage area. There I found three oxygen tanks and four containing fuel. I discovered a small oxygen filler valve attached to one of the oxygen tanks, but could find no reason to use it just yet. Having fully explored what I now knew to be the bottom level of my ship, I climbed the ladder that led out of the fuel storage area. This took me to the upper engine room, where I could see the shuttle’s primary and backup engines. The status panel on the wall told me that the main engines were in tip top condition, and that the auxiliary engine was therefore in standby. There was a notice on the wall in the engine room too, which read “No user serviceable parts inside. Refer service to qualified service personnel.” I hoped I never needed to fix anything on the ship, since I doubted I could be considered part of the “qualified service personnel” crowd.

Bigger is better right!?

I'd prefer everything on this ship to be a little better than "standard" thank you very much.

The one on the top is the backup, while the two at the bottom are currently in use.

I made my way back to the cryofreeze room. There I ascended the ladder I’d ignored on starting, and emerged onto the bridge of the shuttle. There was a “gravity couch” and various panels to check out. I typed “look at panel” and was asked whether I meant the Communications panel or the Control one. I selected the Communications panel and was told that it would allow me to report back to the Guild on Earth. I typed “report to Earth” and was surprised when it worked! “You briefly report your progress thus far, and are told to proceed with your investigation.” I was shown my score in red at the bottom of the screen, which was now 3 out of 800 (3 points). Nearly finished then! Done with the Communications panel, I tried to look at the Control panel, only to be told that I could only see or use this panel from within the gravity couch. I didn’t feel ready to sit at the ship’s main controls just yet, so ignored the couch for now. There was a chart on the wall that appeared to lay out the shuttle’s floorplan, but I was bit alarmed to be told “It looks surprisingly like the one in your manual” when I looked at it. It still annoyed me greatly that I didn’t have the game’s manual, but still hadn’t seen anything that suggested I wouldn’t be able to finish the game without it.

They really didn't want to highlight the scoring system. It appears only briefly at the base of the screen when you have some success.

Consider me surprised!

The rack on the wall contained an oxygen bottle, which I picked up (15 points) and automatically attached to my suit. At this point I went through the doorway to the right of screen and found myself in the main airlock chamber. There was a cabinet on the wall to the right of the airlock, but I wasn’t able to open it manually since there was no handle or knob. Looking at the control panel to the left of the airlock, I discovered that I could open / close the cabinet from there, and that I could also open, close, clear or flood the airlock. Opening the airlock seemed a very stupid idea, but I eagerly opened the cabinet. Inside I found a space helmet, which I picked up and put on (15 points). “You are now breathing from your oxygen bottle.” I decided wasting oxygen while inside the shuttle wasn’t ideal, so took the helmet back off but held onto it. I continued to the right of screen and entered the pod bay, where a smaller shuttle awaited me. It was a “standard Guild light transport model”, and an open access door and stepladder invited me to enter. Before I did so, I thought it best to check out the status panel on the wall, where I was told the following: “The status panel informs you that your shuttle is in orbit around Solus, your pod is fully fuelled and the overheard doors are closed”.

This all looks like Moon. If that's the case, I might as well open the airlock now!

Having all the buttons in red makes pressing any of them seem risky.

You want me to fly off into space in that tin can?!

That last detail seemed important, and I figured I would need to open the overhead doors if I was going to consider taking off in the transport shuttle. There was also a control panel on the wall, which did indeed contain the override for the overhead door, only the override had a polyglass cover over it. “Obviously they didn’t want you playing around with manual controls.” I faced similar feedback when I tried to disconnect the fuel pump from the shuttle, since it didn’t seem particularly safe to take off with it hanging out of the ship. I was being led to believe that everything would occur automatically on take-off, and if I was wrong, I figured the result would likely be humorous. I’d been to every section of the shuttle as far as I could I tell, but decided to at least try positioning myself on the couch on the bridge before heading down to the surface of Solus. It took me a while to figure out that I needed to type “lie down” to position myself on the couch, looking up at a previously unseen panel. From there I could open or close the pod bay door and I could also set the automated navigation to either Flight or Return. Aha, so this is where I was supposed to open the overhead doors in the pod bay! I did so (7 points), then hopped off the couch and made my way back to the bay, knowing full well that if I didn’t put my helmet on I was likely to suffer some serious consequences.

Where's the "Automated lunch" button? I'm starving!

I was curious to know what would happen if I entered the bay unprotected, so saved my game and did it! “Suddenly you feel one whopper of a sinus headache coming on. There is something very unpleasant about being in an unpressurized environment without a helmet on. If you were still breathing you would probably kick yourself.” My head exploded in a bloody mess! This was awesome of course, and reminded me very much of the Space Quest series, with its vast array of gruesome death scenes. I made a mental note to commit suicide at regular intervals, then restored and put my helmet on. I hopped into the transport shuttle and sat down at the controls. There were two buttons available to me, being Automated Flight and Automated Return. I pressed the former (15 points), then watched as my shuttle launched through the open bay doors out into space. The craft accelerated away from the TMG-7 shuttle and then made its way down to the surface of asteroid Solus. It landed squarely on a landing pad on an otherwise empty section of rocky landscape, and I quickly exited in preparation to explore. I predicted that this environment was likely to be bigger than just a few screens, so opened up Excel to begin mapping. I’ll include this map in my posts at appropriate times, in the hope it will make it easier to follow along.

Georges Melies would approve!

In space, no-one can see that you're green.

A little more fanfare would be nice!

As I used to do in all early Sierra games, the first thing I did was see whether there were barriers stopping my progress in each direction or whether the environment looped back on itself the way it did in games like King’s Quest I and II. There appeared to be barriers, so I started from the left top corner and headed down, with the intention of zigzagging my way across, mapping the area out as I went. The top left screen had nothing in it, but the one directly below it had a radio tower. There was a ladder that I could climb up to the dish antenna, but I could also use it to climb down into an airlock below. There was an electrical box attached to the tower, so I tried opening it. It was locked, and I was going to need a combination if I wanted to access whatever was inside. I climbed the ladder, but as I emerged onto a platform where the antenna dish was situated, I was informed that I was running dangerously low on oxygen! Well that was less than ideal! I immediately thought of the oxygen valve I’d seen back on the space shuttle, and wondered whether I was supposed to have filled my suit before coming down to the surface. It seemed likely! I also wondered whether there was any way to know how much oxygen I had left at any point, so began looking through the menus. On the help screen I found I could press F8 to check my wrist monitor, which would show me the status of my air tank and the external atmosphere.

If I'm not back soon...just wait longer!


Thanks for the heads up. Let me know when something really important happens.

Clearly I was going die soon, but I figured I’d find out as much as I could about the radio tower before that happened. There was a gear box to my left, which had a status panel on it, and an access panel to my right. When I looked at the access panel, I found both "close" and "open" buttons, as well as a display with the numbers "11166.1713" on it. I pressed the open button, assuming it would open the gear box. “You hear a groaning sound, but nothing happens. Something is holding that panel shut.” I walked over the gear box to see if I could figure out what was stopping it from opening, and found there was a screw holding it closed. I took a closer look at this screw: “It looks like someone arbitrarily put a screw through the panel to hold it closed. It’s a flathead screw, and you can’t imagine what inspired someone to put it here.” I looked at my inventory, but had nothing that I thought might be able to unscrew it. There seemed nothing else to do up there, so I descended the ladder down to ground level and then further down into the airlock. I reappeared in some sort of storage area, but before I could even consider exploring, my oxygen finally ran out. I was going to have to restore back to the shuttle, so this seemed a very good place to end my first session. I have to say that I’m intrigued by this little game, and am looking forward to seeing whether the game continues in this serious manner or diverts into a more Space Quest direction. Join me in a couple of days to find out.

The inventory helpfully tells me where things are presently positioned.

If I find that there's an oxygen valve somewhere in this room, I won't be impressed!

Well, it's a start!

Session Time: 0 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 0 hours 30 minutes

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: I've written 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. Thanks!


  1. Hey Tricky, I sent you a little gift. Could be useful. ;)

    1. The manual! Merry Christmas to me! :)

    2. So, what's the manual like? Any significant new info?

  2. The game also tells you about the watch if you look at your suit I believe. I'm sure you'll have a bit of fun with this one. It also took me a bit longer than I'd like to admit to "lie down" on the couch.

  3. "If I find that there's an oxygen valve somewhere in this room, I won't be impressed!"

    I am not sure if I remember correctly, but this room might even have air, so all you should have done was to take off the helmet. I assume you noticed the function keys for wearing and removing your helmet? You'll sure come to love them. Also, I'd recommend writing down in your map which rooms have a breathable atmosphere.

    By the way, if you haven't noticed, you can get a picture and description of an item in your inventory with the "look"-command.

    1. wow, I did not see those keys. Always typed "put on helmet" and "remove helmet" usually while running straight towards an airlock, and not always in time.

  4. So far this has reminded me more of 7 Days a Skeptic than Space Quest. The mysterious fate of the asteroid's inhabitants, and somebody screwing the panel shut (probably for a surprisingly good reason), seem all to build up to a horror story. Maybe they dug too deep and unleashed a balrog.

    >You are finding it increasingly difficult to breath

    Looks like the game's proofraeders were slacking.

    1. Is the screw so mysterious? I ain’t no technician, but it seems just common sense to hide delicate machinery behind a well-screwed plate (or other locking mechanism) so that no one would accidentally screw it up. What is more mysterious is the lack of fperjqeviref. I mean, gur jubyr uvtuyl grpuavpny snpvyvgl unf bar syngurnq fperjqevire, naq bar Cuvyyvcf sbetbggra oruvaq gur cyngr ybpxrq ol gur fybggrq fperj. (I know, they are just cutting the expenses).

    2. It gets worse than that Laukku. Pretty sure they used 'your' instead of 'you're' (*shudder*).

      I agree, Ilmari. Also lacking are nygreangvir jnlf bs fbyivat chmmyrf. Ynfre qevyy nebhaq gur fperjf qba'g jbex, hfvat gur xavsr vafgrnq bs n syngurnq qbrfa'g jbexvat, gur pbzo grrgu qba'g jbex, cvrprf bs gur tha qba'g jbex, gnvy raq bs gur unzzre qbrfa'g jbex. Vg'f yvxr gur qrfvtare arire vzcebivfrq gnxvat bhg n fperj jvgu nalguvat ohg n fperjqevire. Nyfb, ab pnoyr jbexf rkprcg gur bar va gur ubyb-pbageby ebbz. Pna'g rira phg bhg gur pnoyr sebz gur pelb havgf (qbrfa'g rira erpbtavmr gurz nf na bowrpg va gur ebbz). That's my rant for the game.

    3. Heh, Trickster noticed! Now guess where I stole the joke from.

  5. 1) Actually, computers are larger at the high end; I mean, look at the computers that run Amazon's cloud or Google's data centers. Are those lots of little computers or one big one? The lines are...blurry.

    2) No "Open the pod bay doors, Hal" joke? I am very disappointed in you Trickster. Very, very disappointed.

    3) Huh, I get the joke about Standard, sort of, but I'm wondering if we have a language disconnect here. Standard isn't usually used to something of middling quality, thought I've heard similar jokes about local anaesthetic and such.

    4) Georges Méliès? Silent movie film maker and comedian?

    5) Is that a mix of "In space no one can hear you scream" and a Muppet reference?

    6) Am I the only one who noticed the WWI German symbols on the side of the spaceship? Are you part of the Imperial Navy? Oh, wait, marc-aut did too.

    7) Nice THX-1138 reference.

    8) I noticed as soon as you didn't fill up your oxygen tank that you were in trouble. Dear lord, you lot are infecting me.

    9) I've spent farrrrrrr to much money this steam sale, largely do to hanging around with my brother all xmas.

    1. 1. Fair point.
      2. I'm just as disappointed Canageek! Didn't even cross my mind for some reason. I'm sure I'll get a 2001 caption in there at some point.
      3. I want exceptional, not stock standard. I don't know, maybe I misused it.
      4. Yep. One of his early short movies was the The India Rubber Head. Go check it out.
      5. Um...yes. Sorry about that.
      6. I noticed too, but failed to mention it.
      7. Thank you. :)
      8. It did actually cross my mind once I'd taken off, but at that point I didn't know I could check my oxygen levels. I played the trial and error card instead of trying to figure it out.
      9. Don't talk to me about spending too much money on games. I'm by far the worst offender!

    2. 5. Sorry? That is awesome. I approve!
      9. True. At least I'm saving some money by farming trading cards. But so far I've bought:
      Dust: An Elysian Tail, Final Fantasy VII, Gnomoria, Ys I & II, and 2 copies of Audiosurf, oh and Mark of the Ninja for my brother. And Grotesque Tactics: Evil Heroes and Grotesque Tactics 2 - Dungeons and Donuts, and Gorky 17 at some point recently.

    3. I don't even want to check how much I've bought this last month. It'll only make me cry.

    4. I made a promise to myself that; for every 2 games I bought, I must have played at least one of them to completion before I can purchase another 2 more games... And I can only get them when they're on sale. Still... spent hundreds. Totally not working.

    5. Hundreds? o.0 I don't even.... I....HOW? Did you buy only triple A games that weren't on the daily deal?

    6. The REAL question is...Hundreds of what? Buckazoids? Imperial credits? Bottle caps? Septims? Dubloons? Don't tell me you spent soul need those for the Number 9!

    7. I´d say that 6) are not german symbols but manoeuvring thrusters. In space there is no air to manoeuvre aerodynamically so these little thrusters are needed. You can find them in many actual ship like the space shuttle or the Soyuz.

  6. Standard here means 'industry standard', as in, most competing manufacturers will make this size and shape, for example, with wrench sizes, there are metric and imperial 'standards'. It doesn't mean average, or normal, it means that the industry has decided that this is an efficient cheap design that serves *all* manufacturers needs, as opposed to proprietary, which only serves one manufacturers needs (torx wrench/screw sizes, for example)

    1. I'm pretty sure Trick was just making a joke....