Um...sir? $1 Million isn't really that much these days!
Oh man, this is going to be tough! It took next to no time at all for me to find out that Les Manley: The Search for the King is a badly designed and programmed game! The question doesn’t seem to be “if” I’ll get stuck, but more like “when” I’ll get stuck. Let’s get on with it then so I can move onto better things! The game begins with an intro that explains the reason behind Les’ need to search for “The King”. The TV station that Les works at (named WILL) is struggling for ratings, and desperately needs some new promotion to boost ratings. The marketing team promises him that they’ve got an idea for a national contest that will get them the ratings they need, without any requirement to hand out a prize at the end of it. Their idea is to offer a million dollars to anyone that can find THE KING! They attempted to show the boss their promo video for the contest, but nothing would appear on the screen. Who do they call when the TV doesn’t work? That’s right, the lowly TV technician Les Manley! Les gets the call from the gorgeous blonde assistant Stella, asking him to come to the boardroom and fix the VCR. On arrival Les finds that the TV simply isn’t plugged in, so does what he does best and “fixes” it. The promo plays, during which Les whispers to Stella “I’ll bet I could find THE KING if I really tried”. His boss overhears and tells him he couldn’t even find his way to work, but the seed has been planted in Les’ mind. “Gee...this could be my big chance. I’ll go find him on my lunch break!”
This is pretty much what my first IT job was like...
...and even today this is a very standard troubleshooting technique.
If Les scores Stella in this game, then it will reach a whole new level of developer wish fulfillment!
That was all the motivation I was going to get, as I was abruptly given control of Les as he stood in his office. The view I had made it look like there was a huge, strangely shaped window in the wall of his office, but when I typed “look at woman” to get a description of Stella as she bent over to get a drink at the water dispenser, I received the following message: “YOU may be able to see through walls...but LES can’t! Besides...only suits get to see that area of the world.” I didn’t yet know just how much of a Sierra clone this game would be, so I typed “look” to see if I could get a description of my surroundings. “This is the world as you know it. Your fifth job since High School...working at the fourth rated network in a three channel market. Your main responsibility – saving electricity by manually rewinding video tape. At least you occasionally get a glimpse of your secret love, Stella Hart.” So typing “look” did give me a brief description, but unlike recent Sierra games, said description didn’t mention the items in the room that I could do something with. This wasn’t good, as it meant I would have to figure out what things were by sight, which isn’t easy when the graphics are far from great. I began scouring the room, attempting to look at everything I could.
What a shame Les can't see the show.
I typed “look at desk” and was told that it was a mess. I typed “look on desk” and was told that “Sitting on the desk are a radio and a telephone.” I typed “look at radio” and was told that “The dial is set to your favorite talk show.” I typed “use radio” and was told that “The switch is broken. Luckily it’s stuck in the ON position.” I typed “look at telephone” and was told that “The 9, 7 and 6 digits are worn off the buttons.” You get the idea! If I’d been playing a Sierra game, simply typing “look” would have said something like “You are standing in your office, where you spend hours a day manually rewinding tapes to save the fourth rated network a pittance (which is clearly more than you’re paid). There is a telephone and a radio on the desk, with the latter being permanently stuck on your favourite talk show station. A ramshackle filing cabinet fills one corner of the room.” Clearly I wasn’t going to get such assistance in Les Manley, so would have to make sure I examined everything and followed every half-lead. I wondered why the 9, 7 and 6 digits might be worn off the phone. Perhaps this would mean something to an American player?! I tried typing “dial 976 on phone” and was told that “dial” wasn’t a word I would need in the game. I typed “use phone” and got the following: “Use? USE??? Hey...this ain’t just another Half Dome game!” Huh!?
Should I know what that's referring to? Is it referring to anything!?
No, a "Half-Dome" game wouldn't give me 10 points for using an incorrect word!
What the hell is a Half Dome game? More importantly, why did I get 10 points for trying (and failing) to use the word “use” (10 points)? Were Accolade taking a stab at Sierra? I recalled that I’d seen a Kickstarter project by a Sierra Composer called Under the Half Dome, but I’d never questioned what it actually meant. I Googled the word “half dome” and discovered that Half Dome is a granite dome in Yosemite National Park. It’s also the image that appears in the Sierra logo! Well you learn something every day! It’s a bit cheeky for Accolade to include this little “joke”, as it suggests their game isn’t just a clone of the work of Sierra...which it clearly is! Anyway, finding no use for either the phone or the radio, I turned my attention to the calendar and the cabinet. Looking at the calendar revealed that “Today’s date is circled. You’ve been working at the station two years as of last Thursday! Your probationary period is finally over.” So why is today circled if my probation finished last Thursday? Hmmm... I looked at the cabinet and was told that “It was once full of important documents until you took over this office.” I could see that items were sitting on the top of the cabinet, so I typed “look on cabinet”. The response I got was “There’s nothing in the file cabinet.” I already knew that of course, but no matter what I typed, I didn’t appear to be able to see what the briefcase looking thing on the top of it was.
Yeah, thanks, but that's not what I asked!
Frustrated at having found nothing in the very first room, I walked out of my office and into a corridor. It was reasonably empty, with only a door and...well...something on one wall. I looked at it for quite a while, trying to figure out what it was. Was it a vending machine? A bubbler? An electrical box? I tried looking at all of those things but was told they weren’t there to look at. Out of desperation, I typed “look at thing” and got the following message: “I don’t see the resurrection card here.” WTF!!?? What has resurrection card got to do with “thing”? Giving up, I tried looking at the little sign I was told was on the door. It said “Authorized Personnel Only”, but I tried opening the door anyway. Unsurprisingly it was locked, so I left the corridor to the right of screen. The next section of corridor had an elevator door and a doorway leading into a room. I decided to check out the room before accessing any other floors, and soon found myself in the big boss’s office! I only knew it was the boss’s office because it said so at the top of the screen. The man sitting in the chair at his desk looked nothing like the boss I’d seen in the game’s introduction, with a full head of white head instead of balding dark grey.
Seriously, what is that thing!? It looks like a bubbler, but maybe it's called something else in the U.S.? (I just asked my wife and she told me it's called a water fountain, so I'll try that next session)
That's nice. No, really it is!
What this room needs is a really big oversized set of keys...oh wait, there's one!
A news reporter appeared on the TV at the back of the room, so I watched it. “Locally, Col. Bob’s Traveling Circus opens today, although tickets have been sold out for weeks. On the national level, this update from WILL’s million dollar Search for THE KING contest. Correspondents report that one Lyla Libido, long-time friend of THE KING and current close companion of Mr. Fabulous, has been spotted poolside in Las Vegas. When asked if her prior relationship with THE KING would help her achieve a quick victory in the contest, Miss Libido replied “Huh? What? Get out of my sun!”” I’d read an article about Lyla in the newspaper that came with the game, but it hadn’t told me anything more really. The woman had dated The King, and would neither confirm nor deny whether she knew his whereabouts now. I figured I’d have to find her at some point, but neither the article nor the TV report gave me a clear indication of where this poolside in Las Vegas was. I turned my attention back to the room, and tried talking to Mr. Burnbaum. He gruffly told me to get back to work, but did respond when I typed “ask about contest”: “Normally, a promotion like this would not be open to employees of this station. But hey…who’s gonna win?!” I tried a few other questions on him, but didn’t get anything useful. It was time to investigate the giant set of keys that were sitting on the desk in front of him.
There's a guy called Mr. Fabulous and it's not me!?
I looked at them and was told that they were the master keys for the office. After looking around the room a bit, I thought I’d see what would happen if I took the keys. Les picked them up, and a message appeared saying “Careful, he might have seen you take them.” When I attempted to walk out with them, the boss was clearly not impressed. He pressed a secret button on the floor under his desk, opening a hole in the floor that I fell through and died! I’m not sure OH&S would be too pleased with that result, but I had no other option than to restore or restart. I chose to restart, wanting to examine everything in my office a little bit closer. Initially I found nothing new, but oddly, when I typed “open drawer” from right in front of the cabinet, I got a message saying: “From here?” Where should I be standing to open the drawer!? It suddenly dawned on me that there must be a drawer in the desk, but since the description of the desk didn’t mention it, and my first attempts to stand in front of the desk were blocked by the chair, I’d let go of the idea. I managed to stand somewhat in front of the desk and typed “open drawer”. It worked, and inside I found a thermos and a lunch bag (20 points)! Now that I’d finally picked something up (and not been killed for it), it was time to check out my inventory.
That horrible moment before gravity kicks in!
I bit the green weenie!!?? Is that bad?! It sounds bad!
Oh man! Is this going to be like Future Wars? "Go a little closer."
I accessed the inventory by typing “I” and pressing enter. Rather than a list of items, I was told “You have a thermos and a lunch bag”. This is similar to the inventory in Police Quest 2, which I really didn’t like. It becomes very unruly once you’ve got around eight or more items in it, and doesn’t allow you to interact or visualise the contents within. Typing “look at lunch bag” did bring up a visual and short description though, which is an improvement on Future Wars where I had no way of examining them. Inside the lunch bag I found a jar of peanut butter, but the thermos appeared to be empty. I still wasn’t able to figure out what the thing was on the wall in the corridor, and after satisfying myself that there was nothing else to be done in the boss’ office, I hopped in the elevator. When the doors opened I found myself in the rear entrance lobby of Station WILL. There was a guard named Dave asleep with his feet resting on the desk alongside a telephone. I woke Dave up without any great purpose, at which point he informed me that he’d been having a great dream. I really wasn’t sure what to talk to him about, but I tried asking him about the contest. “Don’t waste your time. Nobody’s going to win.” With my options depleted, I walked through the glass doors out onto the street, leaving WILL for the first time. It’s time to go hunting for Elvis, with nothing more than a jar of peanut butter, an empty thermos, and the feeling I’ve missed several important items and information already!
Awesome inventory Accolade!
I have no idea what to say to anyone yet! All I can do is "ask about the king".
I'm genuinely scared about what awaits me in this game! Wish me luck!
Session Time: 0 hours 30 minutes
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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!