Saturday, 7 February 2015

Game 47: Spellcasting 101: Sorcerers Get All the Girls - Have Surfboard, Will Travel

Written by Aperama

Ernie Eaglebeak's Journal #5: I managed not to get myself killed by being the preferred chewtoy of an entire island of Amazons after all. I, er.. through my cunning use of what little they had to offer, I managed to find myself back to my trusty surfboard (it's pretty much mine now. I mean technically I'm just borrowing it. But after all I'm doing for the Professor I'm pretty sure he'll let me keep it!) and head off to.. somewhere else. My map had a picture of an hourglass, and.. I had a backwards game of chess, a mudbath, found another.. god, I don't even remember exactly what happened. After the director told me to drop a BUNDEROT spellbox, I ended up with it in my hands, and I was back on the Amazon island again! Of course, I had to get away pretty quick before any of them realised their precious man was missing, so I headed down to the Restaurant at the End of the Ocean. Minus side? My tutor was right, restaurants fall apart really quick. On the plus side, I got about two bites of some pygmy shark and a MAJJELLO spell box. Turns out that 'BOA' was just hidden on the surfboard by a spell! Guess I know where I'm headed to now...


Our last puzzle was simpler than I'd thought!

As I've written a few posts up for this blog now, I can't help but think about the obvious comparisons to the way in which Trickster always wrote his posts up as against Chester's at the CRPG Addict. There's a few reasons why I always preferred Trickster's style, but I can't help but feel that I'd be benefited by following Chester's today. The following post was almost under half an hour of gameplay, but seemed like I made my way through enough significant bits and pieces to actually warrant a gameplay post. Were this the CRPG Addict, however, it'd be time to talk about the combat interface or anything other than what I'd just seen – two extremely railroaded series of puzzles that in my humble opinion just weren't fun at all. It's not like they were nonsensical, and they didn't grate on my nerves – they just weren't very good! I played through them, frowned and then just hoped that the game will come back to the fun of sitting in class writing notes and taking in the game's lore. Anyhow, enough whining. On with the show!


Escaaaape!

The last suggestion I had given to me in the comments was that I had to prove that I had the same 'gigantic spoilers' as an Amazon. I'm quite glad that I didn't choose to pay attention to Kenny's suggestion, however, as they really weren't looking for the shapely curves of a fellow Amazonian woman – they're used to having other, non-Amazonian women around the island. It's just 'not looking like a man' that was the key here. After giving up on attempting to bribe the shopkeeper or hide in things (I figured maybe hiding underneath the bed might help), I realised something – we're playing a game with a spellbook! I didn't see any obvious things that could come out of BLUBBAing in the Amazonian Queendom, though, and ZEM proved rather futile even with the lead-plated sword in tow – so I started to FRIMP random objects, starting with my cloak as I was sure that it had something to do with the outcome – but as it turns out.. there was a bonnet hidden underneath the bed in the VIP room. Oops. Cross-dressing away, and we're outta there!


That's a strange name for an island..


But I can think of a reason or two as to why

This is really not a series of puzzles to come. It feels sorta like Mr. Meretzky was a little lost as to how to make the gameplay stretch out and just looked for very simple puzzles. The series of name-based puns weren't the worst the game has to throw! Indeed, after the seemingly largely useless Amazonian island (the only potential items I can think of that might come in handy from there are the pomegranate and the lead-plated sword I left there) I ended up in the Island where.. time.. runs.. backwards. This is the equivalent of a running quick-time event. Instead of telling us to push X at a contextually sensitive point, though, it tells us to reverse every single command. I'd be okay by this series of puzzles if it allowed for failure! Instead of doing so, it continually lists a command or a thing that has been done and has us react to it. So, after 'GET ON THE SURFBOARD' pops up, you need to type 'GET ON THE SURFBOARD'. (Well, this particular example isn't truthful – we actually get told that some waybread falls into our hands and we need to drop it.) However. Say, for instance, you want to look at the waterfall instead?

Evidently, wanting to not follow the path is cause for DEATH

As such, there's no actual 'gameplay' within this section. Repeating each command leads Ernie through a faux Goldilocks-styled scene, complete with a director on the beach sending him off to do so. Sending him out (well, sending him in) by having him pick up (drop) an object from the beach, he ends up launching himself from the ground to the second floor of the roof – well, he was thrown out of it, in truth. So, by 'heading south' (moving from the north), it leaves Ernie suddenly feeling an awful lot less beaten up from the rapid smacking he received directly prior to. The three steaming mud baths he tried (one too cold, one too hot and one just right) led him to have a nap in the baby.. mud devil's home. Mud devils, I remember from Ernie's classes, were one of the nasties that we have no real defense against. The advice given was 'Avoid, avoid, avoid!' Of course, technically, we're not doing anything.. we're just resting to have the previous action take effect. Confused? Good. Returning downstairs after the mud devils discover us, we find a chess set, three meals of waybread and three concubines...


The notion of Ernie having his excitement return BACK into him made me turn to the 'nice' mode. Instead of concubines? Nuns. Nuns who want to play chess with Ernie.

Sampling the waybread (uneating the small piece, finding one of the other hard and the other too soft) and the.. nun chess matches? Ernie un-enters the cabin in the woods, ending up in front of one of the Great Attachment pedestals, the 'Nozzle of Blather'. He even looked at it for us to actually let us get some more information on it! This is my real problem, honestly – were the game to allow us to actually take in the surroundings even if it wouldn't let us do things without time undoing itself, I'd be okay by this puzzle – it'd be fun and quirky instead of quite annoying. Undoing everything he does, we end up un-dropping a BUNDEROT box ('decomposition'), setting the surfboard we got on back to the co-ordinates we started by going to, riding our surfboard backwards and ending up back on the island of Amazons once more. With an extra spell box. Woohoo! So now, we're stuck with only one location – the 'EATS' sign on the map. Not only was the quote from the previous chapter from Douglas Adams..


But the next isle was quite reminiscent of him too

As Kenny and Ilmari both alluded, the rather large degree of 'steps in restauranteering' training taken back in class at SU comes out to make some sense. Well, it does now, anyhow. There's not an awful lot to this island – if the last we were on was to be considered short, this is amazingly so. There are quite literally two screens to it. That said, simple isn't necessarily terrible. I'm not entirely sure, but I think I may have been forced to play it in this order – it turns out that the BUNDEROT spell obtained in the last island is critical here. (I also found that I couldn't re-enter the restaurant after our first visit.) The opening screen has a harbour, a restaurant and a MAJJELLO spell box. Naturally, I go to claim MAJJELLO for our own – but things don't quite go the way I'd expected..


They SCREW you at the sail-thru. They know you're gonna be miles away before you find out...

As soon as we go to pick up the MAJJELLO box, the restaurant we're standing out the front of happens to decide to open rather abruptly. It turns out our SU professors really knew what they were talking about! The six steps of restaurant evolution take place before our very eyes. We walk in to a restaurant that, having just opened, has great customer service, good and cheap food – everything is good! As we're seated and read the menu (one of which just happens to list 'freshly caught pygmy shark'), the place gets extremely crowded. As we receive our meal (given that it came in five minutes, I've got to admit that this is pretty impressive), people start grumbling about the prices and portion sizes. (We received our portion sizes early enough for this not to be a problem, though.) As we BUNDEROT our meal (I found it wasn't really a choice – having a bite of the apparently rather tasty food makes it impossible to finish off the 'puzzle' within) we receive an under-digested spell box, leading us to the MAJJELLO from the beach. The restaurant remains closed afterwards, so we're stuck with what could be no clear direction – except for MAJJELLO, 'show hidden information'. As I alluded to in the previous post, there's a missing dial from the surfboard as it corresponds to the map. The 'BOA' I was missing, it turns out, is found with a MAJJELLO, and it then directs me to the one thing on the BOA line, the small pictograph of a thunder cloud...




And we have our destination for our next post!
As I say, there really wasn't much to these two chapters of gameplay – they're fine little bits of fun and all, but they're just not 'puzzling' – it's not like I was scratching my head and thinking over things. Instead, I was railroaded into the realms of not really getting to choose what happened. Six turns in the restaurant and it closes, even if you want to look around and do other things. If the game just allowed for a little more playing around instead of giving you limited to no opportunity to stuff up, these last two chapters could have been really enjoyable. Anyhow. The game can't have too much longer to go, and it still has every opportunity to finish up strong, now that my inventory has swelled to two extra spells..

Session Time: 30 min
Total Time: 6 hours

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 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!

11 comments:

  1. Concerning your comparison of Chet's and Trickster's styles: I know we've been trying to recreate the "Trickster-experience" as faithfully as we can, but I'd still like the reviewers to be able to show their own personality and try different styles, if they wish to. If it makes more sense to write something else in a blog post than just a detailed recounting of the latest moves you've made, then go ahead, as long as it is somehow related to the game.

    That said, it would perhaps be difficult to copy CRPG Addict's style, since not so many adventure games have so clearly separable elements like combat or magic systems in CRPGs. But if some reviewer wanted to make one post dedicated to, say, game mechanics or music or whatever in the game being played, well, if there's lot of interesting stuff to be said about them and plot seems to be meandering, why not.

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    1. I'd be willing to devote a post to something else were there much to talk about. I'm enjoying Spellcasting, but so many things in it are just rote and by the numbers - I've already pointed out that the interface is often clunky and difficult to take in. So long as you know what you're doing, it's well written - but when you want to do anything the game hasn't expressly hoped you might, there's really nothing given back. Every little thing in a Monkey Island or a Quest game has a short description of the little things - 'that bed looks like a bed' isn't the best description when the image suggests that it's a gigantic bed with any number of things under or in it.

      In truth, I was sorta stuck. The thought of trying to summarize everything in the above post and continue elsewhere would have just come out to far too much to capture - but I really felt like I was struggling for content as the two sections were both literally little flythrough areas - the equivalent of a fetch quest in an RPG, which is why I had my mind on Chester and Tricky's separate ways. I've always preferred Trickster's, though - it feels more like an inclusive Let's Play walkthrough than Chester's style which is more like an extended review that includes full gameplay spoilers.

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    2. To be fair, the Legend comes not from Sierra/Lucasfilm tradition, but more from the Infocom tradition, in which the player was expected to use different variants of looking (not just looking at, but also looking in, under etc). Even here, if you decide to look UNDER the bed, you'll see that it has the bonnet.

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    3. And it's the first game which takes you out of a classroom (IRL), drops you in a classroom and makes you take notes which actually DOES help and affect you out of school!

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  2. Oh, well. I tried. Personally, I was hunting for a 2nd pomegranate to fill into my gown till I was raped to death by Amazons (never thought I'd ever have to write that sentence down anywhere for whatever reason).

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  3. Phew, I finally got around to reading through the Spellcasting posts.

    And since we're on the topic of old erotic visual novel-like adventure games with time travel, I'd like to plug this Japanese one I recently managed to finish, namely YU-NO: The Girl who chants Love at the Edge of the World. It's my new no. 1 adventure game, displacing Gabriel Knight 1 on my list. It has a great story with some truly insightful moments. The bulk of it is a proper point&click adventure game (took me 40+ hours), but parts of it are completely linear (in particular the 10-hour epilogue). One of its best qualities is the profound music, which is something you can sink your mind into. GK1 still has mostly more human personalities tho, a few of YU-NO's characters suffer a bit for having some obvious anime tropes.

    Hardcoregaming101 article

    Fan translation page

    4-page article about the composer

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    1. I can't wait for 1996 when you blog about it.

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    2. Blogging through it would take maybe half a year. :-P The whole thing was nearly 60 hours (2-hour intro + 40-hour adventure portion + 10-hour epilogue, rounded down) and most of it was talking - I remember reading that the script contains a million words. I also read that not all that the author wanted made it in - indeed, some parts were kinda rushed and questions unanswered.

      Furthermore, shouldn't that year be 2000? That's when the Windows version was released, and it's the only one that's been translated into English.

      It's quite the emotional rollercoaster. The game is very respected in Japan, a remake even was announced recently.

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    3. Laukku: And your point is?

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    4. Hmm, did I even have one? Just felt like talking about it after finishing it, it's one of the highest-rated visual novels of all time after all.

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