Sunday, 7 December 2014

Game 48: Operation Stealth - Won!

Written by Joe Pranevich

James Bond's Mission Log #6: Victory! I have successfully foiled the evil Dr. Why’s fiendish plot. The world is safe for me to go spend some quality time with the lovely Julia Manigua. I know where there is some fantastic deep-sea diving, as long as you don’t mind a few sharks... and I don’t mean that as some sort of double entendre. The diving off Santa Paragua really is fantastic...

Aren’t you a little short for a Spyder agent?

In last week’s post, John Glames had just managed to escape from another of Spyder’s death traps by crawling through a rat-infested system of air ducts then stealing a uniform. Now safely disguised, we can finally explore the rest of the Spyder base properly!

My first tentative steps outside of the Spyder bathroom are into a hallway which curves around to the south and east. I came out of one door and there was a second door to the right. I try that door first, but it it locked, so I head south instead. That section of the hall is curving north and east except with a little alcove off to the south. I think I remember that door from one of the times that I died escaping the piranhas, so I expect that goes back there, but the other door is new. I try the piranha door anyway and it does not open, so I guess the point is moot. Fortunately, the other door opens revealing a storage room with lots of filing cabinets, a refrigerator, a fuse box, and other odds and ends. I find a case of guns, but it seems that I cannot do anything with them. Does the game think I might not want a gun? Would a gun be a giveaway as long as I am disguised in a Spyder jumpsuit? I personally would feel a bit better with a gun while exploring an enemy base, wouldn’t you? But sadly, it is not to be. I search the room and find two items in the filing cabinets: a pair of laces and a blank rubber stamp. What are they for? I have no idea, but if there is one thing that I have learned it is “pick up everything not nailed down”.

The next room to the east seems to confirm my suspicions: the Spyder base is arranged in a circle. There the hallway curves to the west and north with only a single door in the middle. That door leads into a computer room, but there is no computer operator present. Is that the guy that is currently on the floor in the bathroom? Who can tell? I try to use my virus-laden CD-ROM here, but it appears that this computer either does not have a CD drive or it is not the right one. I will keep looking. There’s also a bed in the room (why exactly?) and some clothes on the bed. I rifle through the clothes and find a “mission”, but it seems to be another Delphine gag item-- either that or Spyder really does have a mission to buy all of the terrific games made by Delphine Software. The only other item of note is a water cooler in the corner where Spyder agents certainly have their water cooler conversations.

Caution: This item breaks the fourth wall.

Leaving the computer behind, I head to the north-east hall section and run across a few Spyder agents having a conversation. Before I can get close enough to spy on them, I am recognized as a fraud and killed-- all because my boots were not tied. I restore and use the laces that I found in the storage room and this time they know that I am the real deal. In fact, I am such a real deal that the officer there orders me to fetch him a glass of water. Not wanting to reveal myself, I did not tell him where he could stick his glass of water and instead headed back south with a new goal in mind. I’m not sure how to give him the water, but it probably involves the water fountain in the computer room and the glass that I was hinted about in the bathroom, but was unable to find. Time to recheck every room and see what I have missed.

I start back from the beginning again and check the door next to the bathroom. This time, it opens! The room appears to be the the officer’s office, the guy that I am supposed to deliver the glass of water to. (I guess he could just walk west to get here, while I had to walk around the whole circle.) I cannot get him to talk to me, but I do notice that there is a real rubber stamp on his desk, much like the blank one that I found in the filing cabinet. Obviously, that will be important later. I try to take it, but the officer opens a trap door underneath me and I am very quickly dead again. I restore back and check the rest of the room, but there does not appear to be anything I can interact with. Again, the bank of computer monitors do not have a CD-ROM drive and the filing cabinets in the room cannot be opened by me. It seems, at least for now, like a waste of time.

Because even evil spy organizations need bureaucratic middle-managers.

The next room I search again is the bathroom, and I make a stupidly slow sweep of the entire room pixel by pixel. Not surprisingly, I manage to find the glass I was looking for earlier-- right in the sink where you would expect to find it. How the heck did I miss it before? I have no idea. Either I was not trying the right pixels or it only appears after I need it. Either way, I have it and return to the computer room to fill it with water. My stupid fetch-quest nearly over, time to deliver it to the officer.

On my way back, I pass through the north-east hallway now that the crowd of agents and officers are gone. This hall also has a door, but unlike the others has a fingerprint scanner. A ha! I know exactly where this is leading! I give the glass of water to the officer and I can get his fingerprint, right? I am so clever. I also know from the manual that some of my spy-cigarettes are used to save fingerprints for subsequent analysis. Not exactly the same as using it to crack a security door, but worth a shot. I deliver the full glass to the officer, wait patiently for him to drink, and then I retreat back to the hall with the empty glass. I know from the manual that the fingerprint cigarettes are the ones with the blue bands, so I select the right one and “operate” it to get just the cigarette paper. I “use” that on the glass and now I have a fingerprint! Time to try it out on the door.

Using the fingerprint on the scanner is easy and the door opens into another hall. At the end of the hall is another problem: a second security door, this one guarded by laser bars and a Spyder agent behind a pane of glass. Seems a bit pointless to have two security doors in a row, but obviously I am approaching a sensitive part of the base. Besides, a door guarded by lasers is pretty cool.

It’s like “limbo”, but with more death.

I search this room, but I may have hit a dead end again. Trying to interact with the lasers kills you, just as you’d expect. The guard window has a mail slot next to it and I bet I will need to stick something in there, but what? A Spyder ID? The closest I have is my gag mission orders, but that does not do the trick. I check the hallway, but all I see is a keycard reader and another fuse box. There are a ton of fuse boxes scattered around the base-- is there a puzzle that connects them? If so, I have not found it yet, but I will keep looking. Deactivating the power seems like a great approach to deal with lasers, but also not the most subtle one.

For the second time in an hour, I backtrack again to look for even more pixels that I might have missed. And of course, I find something: in the computer room, there is a black area on the right of the screen that turns out to be a garbage chute. Inside the chute is a liferaft. Why was it being thrown away? What use is it against a laser door? No idea, but it is bound to come in handy later. I do head back and try it against the door just in case, but no dice.

Since I did not find anything useful, I restore back further and replay the entire section since coming out of the bathroom grate. This time, when I hand the officer a glass of water, I notice that he turns his back for just a moment. I use that opening to try to grab the stamp off his desk. It fails the first couple of times, but I am pretty sure I am on the right track so I restore until I can get the timing just right and now I have a proper stamp! I wonder how long it will take him to notice his is blank? Now what am I supposed to stamp with it? I try the fake orders, but that does not work. I guess I have to keep searching.

Do you see the stamp pad in this picture? No, and neither does anyone else.

Another hour of pixel hunting later, I find the solution: there is a stamp pad in the computer room. It is completely invisible, without even a change in the screen when you “take” it. I find these pixel-searching puzzles to be just unfair and a waste of time. This is the third item that I’ve missed since entering the lair because I did not find the right pixels to click on, and this is even after I’d started to do slow and careful sweeps. I want to throw my mouse after just a few minutes of this. The answer to the puzzle at least is obvious: I can use the stamp with the ink pad. I use them together and… trigger a small bug. Now I have two “ink pads”, but one of them is actually the inked stamp. I try that out on the fake mission and now I have an “authorized mission”. But stop for a second: those mission orders just said to buy Delphine games. Why the heck would a mission like that, even one stamped by the officer, get me through the guard room? I know how adventure game puzzles work, but I am still disappointed with this one.

I am frankly amazed that the red carnation has lasted this long.

I return to the security room and put my authorized orders in the mail slot. As I suspected, it works! I am both pleased and swearing under my breath, but at least I can get into the next room. That happens to be another hallway, pretty much identical to the last except for a trash can. I do not see anything to do with the can, and I still do not have an ID badge for the scanner, so I press forward-- straight into the master control room of the evil Dr. Why.

Dr. Why sits on a large swiveling chair in the center of a room filled with agents and large monitors. Julia is here as well, which is a bit of a relief that I did not miss saving her back in the palace. Otto is also here, so it is even more of a reunion! Unfortunately, they see through my disguise and I change back into my handsome spy clothes. If I am going to have to listen to an evil plan monologue, then I might as well be dressed for it.

Couldn’t you have spared me the piranhas and rats?

Before we can get into Dr. Why’s plans and how I am not going to foil them, the good (evil?) doctor reveals a great secret: this is not an underwater base at all! In fact, it is a base cleverly disguised as a volcanic island which can be submerged when the evil mastermind needs his privacy. This leads to all sorts of questions that I just know the game will not answer: did they sink a real island? were the palm trees real or plastic? if they built the whole thing, how did no one notice? But at least I sense that I am near the end. The island base reaches the surface and the Stealth is launched. When Dr. Why’s counter reaches 346, Washington, D.C. will be no more. (Why 346? Is this a James Bond or Delphine Studios in-joke?)

When the cut scene ends, I can see what I can do. Otto, Julia, and Dr. Why are here and all interactable, as are several of the Spyder agents, the computer in the middle of the room (with a CD-ROM slot), and some of the computers on the sides of the room. While I am exploring, the game tells me that I must have forgotten something and while fourth-wall breaking, it is at least helpful. A few moments later, I die-- either because Otto shoots me for trying something that I should not be attempting, or because Washington, D.C. is destroyed. I try the scenario over and over again, using the classic adventure game trick of using every object with every other object to see if anything happens. Finally, I find a clue: when I use the rocket-launcher cigarettes on one of the computers on the side of the room (not the one with the CD drive), I get an error that says that I cannot do it while Otto is watching. Aha! Obviously, now I just need a distraction. But what?

How did they keep the hoards of construction workers and suppliers that would have been required to build a base like this quiet? This would be one of the great engineering marvels of the 20th century!

I will not bore you with the next part. I spent a few more hours replaying the whole sequence over again, searching every pixel and driving myself bonkers. I really wanted to beat my first TAG game without assistance, but I gave up and asked for a hint. (You may have seen the request as a comment on an earlier post.)

I actually was given two hints:


  1. I missed an item earlier in the game required to win. (Is this why I get the “forgot something” message?)
  2. I have everything I need to solve this puzzle already.

Damn and blast. So I can solve the puzzle of Dr. Why’s room, but not the game because I missed something a ways back. I hate dead ends in adventure games. I read further into the hint and discover that I missed an “elastic band” which was hidden somewhere in the shark-infested waters. That means that I need to restore all the way back there, find it, and then replay the whole base section for a fourth time. It also means that I have to beat the rat maze again, which I am not looking forward to. I considered giving up at this point, writing a genuinely PISSED rating, and leaving for good.

Instead, I took a break, beat “Mystery House”, and felt a lot better. You have probably read that review by now!

Much more fun than stupid rat mazes.

After my break, I take a deep breath and dive in again. I restore back to the sharks and explore the underwater environment in more detail. This is really tough, much tougher than the base, because you cannot pixel-hunt and dodge sharks at the same time. Even worse, you are always swimming so you cannot easily sit in one place to do the exploration. Eventually, I find a patch of seaweed whose description says that there is something on the bottom. Eureka! But even though I am on the right path, I struggle to work it out. I cannot just “take” the seaweed, or “operate” it. There are no pixels at the bottom to manipulate separately. Eventually, I discover that you need to “examine” it while in exactly the right spot. Since you are constantly moving when you swim, this was harder than it sounds-- especially since I did not know the trick. I replay the rest of the sequence again, up through to where I was before. On the bright side, the rat maze was not quite as bad as the first pass. Before long, I am back in front of Dr. Why, except with an elastic band.

I still do not get why 346. Does anyone know?

Having just replayed this whole sequence again, I admit that I did not have much patience for trial and error or more pixel-searching. I know that I have all of the objects I need to solve this puzzle, but I just cannot do it. I check the next hint: the answer is the “electric razor” and it has something to do with the trash can in the hallway. How would that even work since there is a metal door between us and that trash can? I have no idea. I restore back to the hallway and try using the razor, then remember that this is the 90s and rechargeables must not have been invented yet. Just like in the beginning of the game, I search around for a power outlet and find one in the hall. Yeah, I missed this somehow in all of my pixel-hunting-- no idea how, but I’m pretty disappointed. I plug in the razor, turn it on, pop it in the trash, and head back to talk to Dr. Why. I do not know why I do these things, but they seem like the first thing to try.

Back in Dr. Why’s room, I still get the “forgot something” message-- is there something else that I am missing? I am about to restore again when the rest of the fake “self destruct” message from the airport starts to play. Dr. Why and Otto panic, giving me the perfect chance to shoot the rocket cigarette at the computer. It blows up and the island starts to become unstable. Before I can celebrate much, Otto shoots me. I restore and do it again, except this time “operate” on Otto as soon as I can. That works! I attack him and knock him out. Dr. Why escapes with Julia, but before I can follow I stick the CD-ROM into the computer and infect the Stealth. Now that it can no longer be cloaked, the US military should have no difficulty shooting it down. But before I can go save Julia again, the base explodes. I restore again, this time trying to shave seconds off my time. I keep getting closer, but the constant interruption by text boxes makes it almost impossible to get too much faster. Eventually, I decide that my DosBox settings might be wrong and slow down the game. That helps and I am able to perform all the actions and get the heck out of there before the base explodes. I make it to the door just in time to see Dr. Why abandon Julia and fly away in a helicopter. She and I both grab the bottom of the helicopter and we all fly off together.

You have to admire any non-super spy willing to grab onto the bottom of a flying helicopter.

We ascend into the air, but even action heroes such as ourselves cannot hold on forever and we drop. On the way down, I deploy the liferaft that I found in the garbage and we survive! Just as I think we are about to win, Dr. Why circles back around and drops a bomb on us. Game Over.

I restore, this time knowing exactly what I need the “elastic band” for! While we are hanging, I attach the band to the bomb. This breaks pretty much all logic if a water-logged elastic has the tensile strength to hold and pull back a bomb, but whatever. It’s a game! When he tries to drop the bomb again, it flies back up and destroys the helicopter. We won! I won my first game for “The Adventure Gamer”!

The ending scene depicts a brief awards ceremony where I am given the “Republic Order of the Banana” and then, and perhaps most importantly, I get the girl. Julia and I retire back to some privacy and the game ends.

So this means the revolution is cancelled?

Excuse me, I have nookie I need to attend to.

Shockingly, there is no “John Glames will return in…” tag at the end. I really expected one.

As far as Delphine games is concerned, one of their “next adventures” will be “Out of this World” (called “Another World” outside the US), considered one of the greatest games of its era and a defining piece of 1990s software. I am completely incapable of understanding how the studio that did this game could have done that one. Their next adventure game will be “Cruise for a Corpse”, which we will get to in 1990. I am considering volunteering for it-- am I a masochist or what?

Up next will be a PISSED rating! I cannot wait to see how it will do!


Session time: 6 hours 30 minutes
Total time: 16 hours 30 minutes

New Contest - James Bond References & Trivia

As I indicated in my review post, I am not a James Bond expert - but you might be. As I play through the game each week, please post comments with all of the James Bond trivia and references that I am missing for the portion of the game that I have played. At the end of the postings on "Operation Stealth", I will tally up the unique comments and the contributor that finds the most references will receive a "Dr. No" DVD provided by me (or an Amazon gift card equivalent if shipping or region locking is prohibitive.)
Joe Pranevich blogs about random geekiness at Kniggit.net and about religion at Coat of Many Colors.

9 comments:

  1. Congratulations!

    People sometimes give Sierra a hard time for puzzles, but surely Delphine have to be one of the worst! I can't imagine ever completing the game without using a guide, some of those puzzles are awful.

    However, I can still see this game scoring reasonably well, if only because the setting and graphics are quite good for the time.

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  2. I think you're possibly overlooking the strengths that Delphine have going for themselves - quirky storytelling and graphics. Another World is nothing short of bloody aggravating - but because it relies entirely on imagery to further its story, it works. This fails because they have to use puzzles and words, not aliens and platforming.

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    1. I admit that I haven't played "Another World" since it came out, but I was captivated then. I might not feel the same way today.

      But there is an easy way to test that theory: http://www.gog.com/game/another_world_20th_anniversary_edition

      That said, I actually enjoyed this game quite a bit, but I soured on the ending for sure.

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  3. http://kotaku.com/day-of-the-tentacle-is-getting-remastered-1667741724

    Hooray!

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    1. I'd like to second that hooray!

      Double Fine seem to be stretching themselves a bit thin these days: Broken Age, Massive Chalice, Grim Fandango Remastered, now Day of the Tentacle Remastered.
      Not that I'm complaining - the more adventure games the better, but they might want to actually finish something at some point.

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  4. It's funny reading your post all I could think of is, he is going to blow up the base what is to become of all the innocent subcontractors..... Then I see this quote:

    How did they keep the hordes of construction workers and suppliers that would have been required to build a base like this quiet? This would be one of the great engineering marvels of the 20th century!

    Awesome..... Of course my line of thinking is straight from the movie Clerks.

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    1. They obviously don't hire quality workmen, because these sorts of evil bases fall apart with the smallest amount of damage!

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    2. Ah, I had forgotten about that scene in Clerks!

      My comment was less about how you man a spy base or moon-sized space station, rather how do you BUILD it? It is either an island that was drilled out and given massive hydraulics to raise and lower or it is entirely artificial and given the look of an island to fool passing ships. Of course, thinking about it is silly, but exactly how does one build bases like these?

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  5. I just wanted to say I'm really happy this blog is still going and that I really enjoy your writing. Keep up the good work and please keep on writing (tried to comment something similar on a previous post, but it didn't seem to work. If it did and I missed, interpret as double enthusiasm).

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