Sunday, 16 February 2014

Game 41: Les Manley 1 - Introduction


Well at least Les isn't overweight and balding. That should help on the chick front!


The manual and game intro make no mention of Elvis Presley, so I can only assume it's that "King" they're talking about.

When I set out on this adventure gaming journey, there were a few games that stood out as ones I was really looking forward to playing for the first time. Loom was one of them. The Dig another! In fact, there were classic series that I'd not experienced a single moment of, including Tex Murphy, Gabriel Knight and even Myst! One game that definitely wasn’t on the wish list was Les Manley: Search for the King. I’d never heard of it, and I doubt I would have been chomping at the bit even if I had. When I put my play list together for the blog, Les Manley didn’t even make the cut. It was added later because I realised the sequel was on there, and even then it was given a Disregarded status due to not being on the Wikipedia Notable List and having only 8 ratings on Moby Games. However…in true Larry Laffer underdog style, The Adventure Gamer community banded together and forced Les onto the play list. Aperama (70 CAPs), Ilmari (50 CAPs), Jarikith (49 CAPs), Laukku (30 CAPs) and Canageek (1 CAP) pooled their well-earned resources together and traded in the 200 CAPs that were required for the trade to take place. While I never had any ambitions to play Les Manley: The Search for the King, you guys sure wanted me too! Let’s find out why…


Just in case anyone wants to know who's really responsible

Les Manley was designed predominately by Steve Cartwright. It was his first attempt at making a classic adventure game, but he’d had quite a lot of experience designing and programming Atari efforts such as Seaquest and Frostbite. The closest he’d been to an adventure game was Hacker, an adventure / strategy hybrid in which the player hacks into a secret lab and discovers a company’s plot for world domination. Nothing in these mid-eighties games suggested that Cartwright might have a Leisure Suit Larry clone running around in his head, so it’s perhaps the design work he did for Bar Games in 1989 that planted the seed. Cartwright designed the “Pick Up Artists” event, one of five bar simulation events that made up the game. The Pick Up event had the player try to figure out which girl in a bar left a note for them, and then attempt to score with them. Anyway, Cartwright didn’t make the game by himself, so let’s see if anyone else of note was on the team. The dialogue appears to have been written by Justin Chin (who was heavily involved in the making of Star Wars: Dark Forces a few years later), and he also played a role in the creation of the background art. Speaking of art, there were a total of eight people involved in creating the visuals for the game, with the only two of note being Bonnie Borucki (animation and background art for Leisure Suit Larry 2) and Carolly Hauksdottir (animation for King’s Quest IV).


Bar Games Pick Up Artists: It seems to me that Cartwright figured out who the real audience was with this "event".

The Adventure Programming Engine, which seems to be a rip-off of Sierra’s SCI0 engine, was built by Michael Berlyn (who designed Infocom’s Suspended, Infidel and Cutthroats along with Tass Times in Tonetown), Bob Smith, Mark Voorsanger and Steve Cartwright himself. Add Russell Shiffer as the score composer (Test Drive II & III) and you’ve got a very large and experienced team! All this suggests that Les Manley: The Search for the King wasn’t some sort of bedroom-made hobby like Hugo’s House of Horrors, and was instead a serious attempt at making a successful game by a professional team. It’s also interesting to note that no less than six women were involved in its creation, which is unexpected for any game resembling Leisure Suit Larry. It will be interesting to see how females are represented. Considering all of the above, surely the game can’t be that bad can it? Well, reader comments haven’t given me high hopes, and the ratings that critics have given the game over time add to my apprehension. Nonetheless, I have a job to do, and have downloaded a copy which I’ll be playing in DOSBox. I’ve also found the original manual along with a newspaper, a parts catalog and an image of some sunglasses, all of which would have come in the box back in 1990. I’ve spent quite a bit of time reading through these documents this afternoon...


The Version 1.1 sticker on the front of the box is interesting. I can't see any evidence as to which version I'll be playing.

Apart from a brief description of Les’ basic attributes, including his age (27), occupation (video technician), favourite movie (The Little Mermaid) etc., the manual didn’t give much away. It did read very similarly to a Sierra manual though, covering off the same topics in the same order (including a closing walkthrough for the first section of the game). The newspaper, called the National Inquirer, was more revealing. The main article suggested that The King (aka Elvis Presley) may still be alive, with a TV station offering a million dollars to anyone that can find him. Also included was an interview with Les Manley, an obvious loser that has devoted himself to getting his hands on the cool million. The only other article worth mentioning was one titled “Extraterrestrials Suck Lard From 300-Pound Woman, Transmit Secrets of Ancient Civilization”, which turned out to be an advertisement for another Accolade adventure game (Altered Destiny, which I’ll be playing soon enough). I was unsure as to why the picture of the sunglasses might have been included in the package, but soon realised these had been a real pair back in the day. They were included as a piracy avoidance attempt, since the Parts Catalog could only be read with them on. Thankfully the document I’ve downloaded shows the parts, along with the prices I will be required to enter, the way they would have appeared if viewed through the sunglasses. Right, enough chat, who’s searching for the King with me?!


I have no reason not to believe the word of Psychic Madame Z!

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 without putting in an official Request for Assistance (see below for an example bet). If you get it right I will reward you with 60 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.

Example Bet:

Ng urnqdhnegref V unir whfg neevirq
Gura jngpurq n zna juvyfg ur qvrq
N cebzvfr V unir qhyl znqr
Gb svaq gur cnepuzrag nf pbairlrq.

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 the King's Quest Collection from Steam (which includes Roberta Williams' King's Quest I: Quest for the Crown). How good is that!? Good luck!

47 comments:

  1. The Adventure Programming Engine, which seems to be a rip-off of Sierra’s SCI0 engine, was built by Michael Berlyn

    Ah, this must be the same Sierra-esque engine also used in Berlyn's other 1990 Accolade effort, Altered Destiny, up ahead I see as game #44. Connecting the dots!

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  2. Ah, finally. Some quality entertainment! *ducks head*

    V'q whfg nobhg org nyy bs gur PNCf va gur jbeyq gung lbh qba'g jbex bhg gur ervapneangvba pneq ohfvarff. Onfvpnyyl, lbh pna qvr hzcgrra gvzrf. Lbh UNIR gb qvr jura lbh trg gb gur pvephf. Gur chmmyr erdhverf lbh gb xvff n sbeghar gryyre. Jub tvirf lbh nofbyhgryl ab vaxyvat nf gb jurgure be abg lbh fubhyq or gelvat fhpu n guvat. Lbh jba'g svaq gur pneq jvgubhg uryc, Gevpx!

    Let's go with 35 for the game, though.

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    1. I read in one review about the game that there's actually a very subtle hint about it in the game:

      Gur sbeghar gryyre vf nccneragyl gur Gur Jbeyq'f Fgebatrfg Zna'f qnhtugre, naq vs lbh nfx uvz nobhg ure ur gryyf lbh abg gb gbhpu ure. Nal gbhpuvat, vapyhqvat xvffvat, znxrf ure yvgrenyyl inavfu. Ab uvagf NSNVX sbe gbhpuvat gur nyyvtngbe nsgre gung gubhtu, juvpu vf erdhverq gb trg gur pneq.

      Delete
    2. Depressingly, I've just started the game up and realised that even I had forgotten that (it flooded back to me as I was confusedly staring around trying to work out what to do). Dearie dearie me. I'm sorry, everyone. I did this. Me. My soul is crushed.

      Delete
    3. Oh... my... freaking... God... I just wasted half an hour playing this... inane piece of... okay, shit is still useful as farm compost but this... This really takes the cake. Bad game to start with, thinking I can play along. Just no.

      I'll go with 26. And go lie down for a while.

      I have the sudden urge to give Aperama a Spinning Luchadore Power Bomb.

      Delete
    4. Not even going to try it. I know my limits, and I haven't got a chance of having patience enough to play this one to the end without just following a walkthrough all the way.

      Delete
    5. It was a CAPs grab gone horribly wrong :(

      Delete
  3. Some annoyances will come up soon enough I think,
    And sume unforgiving puzzles, leading to a score of 36.

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  4. I'm going to guess 30.

    The puzzles are so horrible that I'm making multiple bets:

    -Gevpxfgre jba'g guvax bs cvpxvat hc gur qernz
    -Gevpxfgre jba'g guvax bs nfxvat sbe fbqn ng Oboov'f
    -Gevpxfgre jvyy unir gebhoyr jvgu gur "qb abg qvfgheo" fvta
    -Gevpxfgre jba'g svaq/bognva gur erprvcg va gur ongugho jvgubhg uryc

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  5. Two connections to Quest for Glory:
    1. Carolly Hauksdottir told us that Ken Williams was looking for an RPG designer for Sierra, and introduced us to him. That led to Hero's Quest and the Quest for Glory series.
    2. I worked briefly at Accolade between Quest for Glory IV and V. I got caught in a layoff and made it back to Oakhurst about a year into QGV development.

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    Replies
    1. I can't quite imagine a circumstance where you get laid off after the brilliant QFG4.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for the thought! Sierra laid off about half the company at that time. A few weeks earlier, I had a meeting with the Director of Development. He told me that senior management had decreed that all game budgets be reduced by 20%. I pointed out that Quest for Glory IV had shipped in a terribly buggy condition - It took a programmer most of a year to fix the most serious bugs in time for the release of the voice/CD version - and that we needed more time and budget, not less.

      At the time, it didn't occur to me that Sierra management probably had no idea of what we actually spent on the game. I knew it was about $750,000, but I can imagine them assuming it was North of $1 million. But we'll never know.

      Anyway, possibly because I refused to make a game for half the budget it needed, Sierra cancelled Quest for Glory V, and broke Lori's and my 3-game contract. (Of course, that could have just been an excuse because they had too many games under development.) Two or three years later, a flood of petitions and fan mail demanding QGV caused the new management at Sierra to bring Lori back to design the final game. I came back a year later to help program it.

      Delete
    3. Doesn't seem like a lot of money when you hear of modern gaming budgets! But I guess I don't have any sort of idea of what profits they were making.

      I would have thought that QFG5 must have ended up being much more expensive, what with the voice acting and 3D stuff (an entirely new engine can't be cheap).

      Delete
  6. I'm going to guess 38 for the score.

    I've never played it before, and everyone seems to think it's terrible. However, I'm going to give it a shot and see how far I can get before resorting to a walkthrough.

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    1. I have begun the game. Vg unf abg ubbxrq zr ng nyy fb sne, irel jrnx bcravat jvgu irel yvggyr vqrn bs jung V fubhyq or qbvat (bgure guna "svaq gur Xvat", juvpu vf abg urycshy).

      Delete
  7. 39 is my guess. This is not a good game. I wish I could go back in time and tell my younger self not to bother.

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  8. Well, no idea about this one but as the consensus seems to be low I'll go with 34

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  9. No idea about this game, so instead of just picking a number out of the air, I am from now on going to roll D100 to determine all scores to which I have no clue about. And the number rolled is (drum roll please)............................................96. Yes Les Manley in Search of The King will be the best adventure game Trickster has ever played. All other games will pale in comparison next to this one.
    So my die say 96, and I'll stick with it. Something tells me those 10 CAPs will not be coming my way.

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    Replies
    1. Perhaps a better option would have been to roll for each category with a d10, then calculate the score as Trickster would.

      Lacking the dice required, I used this: https://www.wizards.com/dnd/dice/dice.htm

      It gave me the following results: 9,1,2,5,2,2 = 21. 21/60 = 0.35 so a final score of 35! It's a foolproof method.

      Delete
    2. Not bad, I got 4, 2, 2, 9, 1, 10 = 28 28/60=047. So 47 it is then. Even though I think my initial 96 has just as much chance as 47, I'll go the 47. Good thinking Andy, I like your way better, it gives me more dice to roll, and rolling dice is very cathartic

      Delete
  10. I was too optimistic with the last one, so I'll shoot really low this time. 31 is my guess

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  11. Let's say 36.

    Since I spent some precious CAPs for this, I'll join the "fun" and try to complete it. I hope I'll remember everything so I won't have to spend too much time with this travesty (I'll try to do it during my lunch hour).

    I am going to bet:

    1. Gevpxfgre jvyy unir ab vqrn gung Uryzhg zhfg or znvyrq.
    2. Ur'yy arire trg gung qragny sybff jvyy znxr sbe n thvgne fgevat.
    3. Ur jba'g or noyr gb znxr Yrf sng ol srrqvat gur thl n fnaqjvpu.
    4. Ur jba'g svaq gur erfheerpgvba pneq.

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    1. One lunch hour gone and my progress has been repeatedly stopped by n abgvsvpngvba fnlvat V zvffrq fbzrguvat (avpr gung gurl jnea lbh, npghnyyl). What I am forgetting now? Grumble, I’ve played this game once and I still feel like hitting my head on a concrete wall with steel spikes. Oh well, tomorrow’s another lunch hour.

      Delete
    2. Ah yes, it was gur pncr I forgot. You know, it would be really nice, if the game somehow hinted beforehand that you might need to pbyyrpg nyy gung Ryivf fghss (good thing I at least remember that ridiculous ending - embrace youself Canageek, you are about to witness the very definition of silliness). Well, it's on to Ynf Irtnf then!

      Delete
  12. Luckily, this game allows you to name saved games (I've been going with a motif of say, "my soul is burning" or "my logic is in a puddle in the" "corner".)

    About half way in from an hour long session of pain. I could identify a couple of other issues that Trick might encounter, but they're as much parser based as not" (Ybbx" vf arrqrq nf whfg jevggra va gur pvephf va ybpny nernf gb npprff nernf. "Ybbx fgebat zna" tvirf "Yhvtv vfa'g urer" jurer "ybbx" nybar oevatf lbh vagb uvf fperra vs lbh'er pybfr) but yeah.

    I'm guessing we'll need to sum up bets, or see if it's supposed to be one a person. Of the ten puzzles I solved last night, four made at least a little sense outside of 'just do because I remembered from a previous play through'.

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    Replies
    1. According to the rules, it's only one bet per puzzle. Ilmari's fourth bet is basically a duplicate of the one you made, and I guess it doesn't count because you made it first.

      I wonder whether it would be more practical to bet which puzzles Trickster will solve *without* assistance, instead of the other way around. The puzzles are so sadistic that the developers must be actively trolling you. The game even specifically makes mention of the hint book a couple times, "maybe you should buy one too, hint hint wink wink". Well thank you for informing me of that, game. What would I ever do without you. >_>

      Delete
    2. Aperama made a bet? Oh, he Rotted that he was making a bet :) Well, that's three bets for me then.

      I remember some Sierra game did the same: after every death they mentioned that you could order a hint book. Ah, the days before Internet, when you could actually make money with such things!

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    3. Somehow I get a feeling that this game was all just a scam to sell more hint books.

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    4. The first screen of the help menu takes you through the basics, verbage etc.

      The second screen tells you where to get the hint book.

      Delete
  13. Is the answer to the riddle: Avpbyr "Avpb" Pbyyneq?

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  14. 21! Guessing very low based purely on people here saying it's bad. Good luck Trickster and others playing along!

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  15. Well it can't be that bad, can it? Trickster has valiantly suffered through a fair number of turkeys, but this game is seemingly taking a record amount of heat from the audience. And assistance bets. Seems like there're lots of burnt fingers here.

    The funny thing is I should look at mine too. I'm positive I've played this at some time or another, but blasted if I can remember a single thing about it! Maybe that should be my clue :-/

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    Replies
    1. I guess when Trickster has got so much negative hype about Les Manley, he can only be pleasantly surprised by the game, and it will actually land on current top 5... or not.

      Delete
  16. I wonder if Larry 5 was a stab at Les Manley. I mean, ng gur ortvaavat bs guvf tnzr, Yrf vf jbexvat sbe n GI fghqvb nf n znahny ivqrb gncr erjvaqre, naq gur ortvaavat bs gur bgure tnzr, Yneel vf jbexvat sbe n ivqrb pbzcnal nf n ivqrb gncr pyrnare.

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  17. Dragon Lore now on special for $1.99 on GOG

    http://www.gog.com/game/dragon_lore_the_legend_begins

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  18. whew, barely caught this before the first post. Let's say 28. Good luck with this, seems you'll need it.

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  19. No-one has solved the riddle yet, so I'm upping the stakes...

    At headquarters I have just arrived
    Then watched a man whilst he died
    A promise I have duly made
    To find the parchment as conveyed
    Across the cities of France I'll go
    To find the will, I can't be slow
    My friend is coming for the ride
    Who knows, perhaps I'll find a bride!

    Who am I for 30 CAPs?

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    Replies
    1. Trbssebv Yr Oeha sebz Gbhpur - Gur Nqiragherf bs gur 5gu Zhfxrgrre?

      Delete
    2. Correct! Geoffroi Le Brun from Touche - The Adventures of the 5th Musketeer it is!

      Experience or Google?

      30 CAPs coming your way regardless.

      Delete
    3. Google. I had heard about the game before (and planned to play it at some point), but knew nothing about the plot.

      Delete
  20. I had no idea, but the guys who made The Book of Unwritten Tales - KING Art Games - are kickstarting the sequel, and they got funded (65k) in 30 hours!
    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kingartgames/the-book-of-unwritten-tales-2

    The first game is *really* good so I'm happy to see this happening.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, I totally missed that one. Pledged!

      Delete
  21. Wow. I just read a review of this game and its sequel, and I am not spoiling anything here other than to say that they SUCK, and I am very glad I'm not bothering to play these! Godspeed, Trick!

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  22. Oh man! I think this is the first time that I've missed betting a score AND wanted to bet some caps, since I read the Saturday Crapshoot on this game. DAMN MIKASA*

    *I may have named my gaming computer after an anime I watched recently. I'd turn this into a triva quiz, but Google gives away the answer way too quickly. (Attack On Titan; Some of the best battle scenes ever directed, and great music. Shallow characters and disjointed pacing though, due to screwing around with the order things were shown in the manga.

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  23. If you want to play along, Les Manley can be streamed from Archive.org at: https://archive.org/details/msdos_Les_Manley_in_-_Search_for_the_King_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.

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