Monday, 13 July 2015

Missed Classic: Questprobe Featuring Spider-Man - Hauling Furniture for Goodness

Written by Joe Pranevich

Let’s see what’s behind Door #1...

Peter Parker Journal #2 - My spider-senses are still tingling, but I have explored all of the Daily Bugle building and defeated several of my fiercest foes. It still feels like a dream somehow, but Mysterio is here and I can’t help but feel he is connected to all of this. I’m in the air ducts now and descending into the basement. I sure hope I wake up soon.

The Second Floor

When we left off in the previous post, I had explored the first floor of the office building and discovered it littered with villains: Sandman, Hydro-Man, and the Lizard. Madame Web is also here, as well as one of the infamous Questprobe “bio gems”. Ms. Web provided me some clues about how to deal with the villains, but none of them have panned out just yet. I’m sure it will make sense once I explore the rest of the building.

The only unexplored room on the first floor is the elevator waiting room. I push the call button and wait a few turns, but no elevator is forthcoming. Since Spider-Man has spider-strength, I use it to open the elevator doors. This rewards me with a nice (but brief) animation of the doors being opened, which I rather like. We did not get these little cut scenes in The Hulk and they are welcome here. Once inside the elevator shaft, there is no obvious way to go but up. Since I am a hero that spends his days climbing walls, this is no problem.

Something about this image is pretty awesome.

The next floor up is another lobby, identical to the first except for a mirror on the far wall. As in the previous game, I can look in the mirror and see Spider-Man staring back at me, but despite my best efforts I can neither dislodge it from the wall, break it, or do anything else of interest. But the strange thing is that when I head west and expect to find myself in another hallway, I actually find myself clinging to the side of the building:

Classic Spider-Man pose. Notice the underarm webbing, which has been an off and on part of the costume since the beginning. Many artists just omit it.

This doesn’t sit right with me at all. You can’t be walking through a hallway one moment and suddenly find yourself hanging from the outside of the building the next. There’s a transition missing, at the very least, and no clear indication when I was standing next to the elevator that the only way out was a window. And why would you build an elevator that went to nothing anyway? It breaks my brain just to think about it. Even worse, there is nothing apparent to do here as I cannot seem to climb either up or down the building, in both cases getting a “bump” message that something stops me. I am annoyed and hope there will be something useful to do here later.

The Third Floor
The third floor is more promising and is thankfully arranged just like the first floor, except with only four rooms instead of six:
  • The elevator room, identical to the first floor (and no mirror)
  • An empty office containing a selection of chemicals: calcium carbonate, hydrochloric acid, and “exotic powder”. I pocket all three.
  • A chemist’s lab that contains equipment, but no chemicals. I am able to use Madame Web’s clue to mix the calcium and acid to form “calcium chloride”. 
  • A computer room, guarded by the Ringmaster

It’s the Riddler! No? Wrong franchise.

Of those rooms, only the Ringmaster’s computer room gives me pause. Speaking to him, he presents a very simple challenge: you can defeat him by pressing a button on the wall and turning it. Of course, it’s not going to be that easy: when I try, he hypnotises me and forces me to leave the room. I try a few more things, but I’m not immediately able to see a way around his hypnosis. I will come back later. The Ringmaster isn’t really even a proper Spider-Man villain, but more like a Marvel villain wildcard that menaces a number of different heroes. He first appeared in Incredible Hulk #3 and later founded his own nefarious team, the Circus of Crime. My guess is that I can prevent his hypnosis by blocking my ears, and will start to look for something to do that with. Where are alien killer bees when you need them?

The Penthouse

With nothing obvious to do on that floor, I head up another but run into a minor obstacle: I bump into the bottom of the elevator when I try to climb higher. Is this a puzzle with the call buttons? No. I just need to push really hard and the elevator moves out of the way. Even better, searching around the elevator shaft to look for a clue revealed a gem. I could easily have missed that gem and will have to search harder in the future to make sure I don’t miss any more.

Nice! Hey, where’s Eve?

In any case, the top floor of the building turns out to be a luxury penthouse, probably belonging to the publisher or someone like that. There’s a painting on the wall of J. J. Jameson, the former owner/publisher of the Daily Bugle and Peter’s longtime nemesis, so it might be his place. He seems like the type of guy that would hang a painting of himself up on the wall. If he’s in this game someplace, he’d be the oldest character to appear other than Spider-Man himself, as he first appeared way back in Amazing #1.

The room is filled to the brim with stuff to explore: a thermostat, a desk, the painting, a clock, and a couch. I search and find a gem in the desk, but I’m pretty sure there is also something special about the couch. I can move it, look under it, and even sit on it (with an awesome bit of artwork!), but try as I might I don’t find anything useful to do with it. Strangely, I can even pick up the couch and the desk, although I’m having trouble imagining Spider-Man running around the game with a couch and a desk strapped to his back. (I believe they call this bit of adventure game magic “hammer space”.) Two items in the room seem to have a use: the clock, which tells me how many turns I’ve used so far (94!), and the thermostat.

Very cool. But what am I missing?

Seeing the thermostat immediately reminds me of the clue about Hydro-Man: Madame Web said, “solid”. Ice! I check the current temperature and it says 71 degrees. I turn it down (twice) and it stops at its lowest setting: 31 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s negative 0.6 degrees Celsius for all of you living in a sane part of the world. Before I leave, I pick up everything that isn’t nailed down (the desk, couch, clock, and painting) and head back to the elevators. On my way back down to the start, I search the niches in each floor and manage to pick up a few more gems. My total is now five, though I’m not yet sure how many I need.

Solving Puzzles

Back on the first floor, it’s time to start solving some of the puzzles that I passed along the way. The first should be simple: the Lizard. Madame Web’s clue was a chemical formula (for calcium chloride) that I made in the lab upstairs, so I give it to the Lizard and he immediately “dries out” to become a sleeping Doc Connors. I search his slumbering body and pocket a gem. One down!

And what they found was just a statue, standing where the statue got me high.

Next up: Hydro-Man. As I expected, he has been turned to ice using my little thermostat trick. Unfortunately, the aquarium where the gem was hidden has become a block of ice, preventing me from getting the gem out. No matter. I pick up the ice block and will thaw it out on my next trip upstairs. Spider-Man is already carrying a desk and a couch, could a frozen aquarium make it any worse?

The next villain on the floor is Sandman, but I don’t have any obvious leads on him yet. Madame Web’s hint is that I will be “above” him, but that doesn’t narrow it down much. But thinking about that, I consider Spider-Man’s powers: web slinging and wall climbing. I try throwing some webs and that fails because I have no web fluid! Aha! Will I be able to find some, or is this just a tease? I guess I’ll find out later. I also try to “climb walls” and that works, too! Working on a hunch, I enter Sandman’s room while wall-climbing. This time, instead of getting the “ouch” message followed by Sandman forming, I do not disturb him and am free to explore. That lets me snag not only the formula in the crib, but a gem as well. That’s three villains down!

I take a good look at the formula, but I honestly have no idea what it is. When I pick it up, it is “formula”, but in inventory it is “a formula”. So what is it? Is it baby formula? Is it a chemical formula? I cannot “open” it, “read” it, “eat” it, or anything that I would be able to do with either of those things. In the end, I leave it a mystery, but it’s not a positive sign that I have an item that has multiple meanings and no way to tell exactly what it is. This breaks suspension of disbelief, in my view, even more than carrying around a couch, a desk, and an aquarium. Since it was in a crib, I’m going to assume baby formula until I hear otherwise.

Curse you, oh bringer of unnecessary deaths.

Unfortunately in all of this, I manage to wander into the Bio gem room again and get blown to bits. That’s another life down. I restore the game.

After this, the only villain left is Ringmaster, on the third floor. I ask Madame Web about him, but she doesn’t have a clue this time. I try to find some other ways to cover my ears or turn the knob more quickly, but none of those attempts work. I thought briefly that this could be a way to show of the new parser (“go west then push knob then turn knob”), but that just executed the tasks in sequence and he still kicks me out of the room before I can finish. But I nearly forgot that this game also has a manual that contains information about my foes in it. In specific, the entry on Ringmaster gives a great little clue:

It’s not sound that is hypnotising me! It’s the light from his hat. Obvious in retrospect, of course, but I try “close eyes” (another trick I learned in The Hulk) and I have no problem entering the room, turning the knob, and etc. When I open my eyes again, the Ringmaster is gone, leaving only a gem behind. Score!

The Second Floor Mystery

Jazz hands!

With no further villains to defeat, it’s time to explore the whole building again, searching every cranny of every room as I go. When I get to the second floor and explore the wall outside the building further, I realize that something isn’t quite right. I already mentioned the “bumping” that I get when I tried to climb up or down, but there are other examples. For example, it says that I am on the top floor, even though I know there are still two more floors above me. Earlier, I wrote this off as just poor level design, but now I’m not sure. At one point I get frustrated and just type “jump”, expecting either that the game won’t understand or that it will say something funny. Instead, I find myself suspended in mid-air. Moments later, Mysterio appears. I found my next enemy! Mysterio is another classic Spider-Man villain, first appearing in Amazing Spider-Man #13 in June 1964.

This seem obvious in hindsight, but it really does make feel bad for complaining about the poor level design earlier. The more I think about this little puzzle, the more I like it. The hints are subtle enough that I discounted them the first time, while obvious enough in retrospect that you can’t believe that you didn’t see it immediately. In fact, the whole design of the building comes together to support this puzzle, because it wouldn’t be so obvious if the first and third floors weren’t as consistent as they are. There’s just so much good here, but I’m going to keep exploring.

So although I’ve figured out that there is a puzzle here, I do not actually get very far with it. Mysterio is floating on a cloud, but I can’t find a way to get to it. I can see exits in every direction, but I can’t seem to travel in any of them. Mysterio is moving around as he will occasionally disappear from the “floating in mid-air” room, and I can occasionally spot him in the elevator lobby, but I can’t seem to find a way to catch him in either location. Even Madame Web’s clue isn’t all that helpful as she just says, “it maps odd”. She might be referring to the strange structure of the building, but I have a feeling there will be an old-fashioned text adventure maze coming up, if I can find it.

After messing around in Mysterio’s room for a while, I resume my careful exploration of the whole building. Along the way, I discover that I can pick up “sleeping Doc Connors” (the Lizard) and the “ice statue” (Hydro-Man), but do not have anything interesting to do with them. Lugging two bodies around does further add to my desire to know where Spider-Man is putting everything, but some questions are better left unanswered. I also take a few turns to melt the frozen aquarium and get the gem out; the thermostat worked exactly as expected for this purpose.

The Web of Spider-Man

The ever-hated, John Jonah Jameson, Jr.

After taking another circuit through the game and not finding anything new, I realized that the trick might not be in someplace I’ve been, but rather an item that I had already picked up. I go over each of the items in turn, but only two appear to have anything interesting going on with them: the couch and the painting. Both of them have a close-up view, although you have to sit on the couch first. Is that a clue? If it is, I am still in the dark.

Fortunately this exploration does turn up gold: when I “open” the painting, I cut it open and find a piece of paper inside. Looking at the paper reveals a formula for making webbing using exotic powders. Awesome! I go and mix some up in the chemistry lab, but am given a message that it is a “partial success only”. Am I missing an ingredient? Either way, I have something that I can start with.

Nice animation here.

Using the web shooters gives a very nice animation, perhaps the third or fourth animation we’ve seen in the game so far. I go around using this in a bunch of places, trying to shoot at a bunch of things, but each time I get a message that “nothing special happens”. As Mysterio is the only remaining villain that I know of and this was my last lead, I am convinced that you can use the web shooters to get to his cloud, get him, trap him, or otherwise do something with him.

Unfortunately, all of those attempts were for nothing and the real puzzle solution was something I already knew how to do: climb on the ceiling.

While I was fooling around in Mysterio’s room, looking for perhaps a better angle to fire my web shooters from, I end up getting the idea to climb the walls and the ceiling, just like I did with Sandman. But that worked much better than I expected: climbing on the ceiling takes Spider-Man above Mysterio’s mists and so the illusion is broken. Spider-Man, at least on the ceiling, knows he’s in an office building once again. The ceiling contained a mesh that blocked access to a vent, but it was no match for spider-strength.

Inside the air vent is a giant fan plus a gem. (Mysterio’s, I suspect.) I immediately think that the puzzle is to turn on the fan and suck out all of the illusion-causing mist from the room below, but it turns out that the fan is already on. There is a button on the other side of the fan that must do something, but the blades are spinning too quickly to allow me to reach it.

I try to shoot the button with webbing, but the fan’s blades have no problem deflecting my spray. But before I give up on that approach, I realize that it is actually doing something else: the blades are slowing down. Spider-Man, using his spider-fan-speed-sensing power, initially saw that the fan was spinning at 500 rpm, but now it is only 475 rpm. I shoot it a few more times and manage to get it down to 50 rpm before it refuses to get any slower. But with the blades moving more slowly, I am able to successfully shoot the button with webbing and the fan stops entirely. I came in thinking my job was to speed up the fan, but I stop it instead. Go figure.

With the fan stopped, I can crawl through it (dragging the desk, painting, aquarium, and couch with me, of course) and I find myself in a section of air ducts that the game informs me cannot be mapped just using compass directions. It’s an old fashioned text adventure maze! Fortunately, I have enough objects in my spider-pockets to place one in each and every room and I am quickly able to map every nook and cranny of the duct system. I discover only three exits: back to the fan, a shortcut to the first floor, and the printing press room!

The Sinister Two?

And that is where I find my next set of Spider-Man villains: Electro and Doctor Octopus. Both are classic villains of the first year of Amazing Spider-Man. Both are members of the Sinister Six. In more recent comics, Doc Ock even took a turn being Spider-Man for a while. But none of that matters because while I was just starting to look around the room, Electro blasts me with a lightning bolt and I die.

And that seems to be as good a point as any to end this week. Tune in next time for our exciting conclusion!

Time played: 5 hours
Total time: 5:30 hours

Deaths/Reloads: 2 (4 total), plus uncounted reloads while I was exploring with the web shooters, in case I have a finite amount of fluid.
Inventory: Formula, sleeping Doc Connors, an ice statue, an ice block, a desk, a couch, a painting (ripped), a clock, mesh, and a couple of gems. I also have working web shooters, not reflected in the inventory.

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.

Scott Adams / Chief Examiner Interview!

As you might have seen in the comments of the previous post, Scott Adams has agreed to do a community interview with us. Scott is the former head of “Adventure International”, probably the first ever adventure game company for personal computers. He has written more than a dozen games himself, including all of the Questprobe games that we have been playing. He was also a programmer on a number more, including blog-favorite “Psycho”. His most recent game is “The Inheritance” (2013), a text-adventure game based on the bible.

If you’d like to ask Scott a question, please post it here. (You can also mail the questions to the admins at the email address on the left.) Just like we did with the “Two Guys from Andromeda” interview, we will gather up the best twenty questions (or so), organize them, and send them off to Scott. We hope that his answers will be published just after we complete playing Questprobe #3 in August.


  1. An obvious question: what was Scott's actual involvement with Psycho? Mobygames says he did "IBM programming", but was it more like converting an already existing program to another platform or had he more creative say over the content of the game?

  2. Wow, that Mysterio section is fiendish, but it does make sense!

    Spiderman on the couch reminds me of a high school art teacher telling my class that "anyone can draw Spiderman. If you want to show someone that you can really draw, have Spiderman do something unusual, like walk down a flight of stairs." I'd be super impressed if someone drew Spiderman hauling a couch and a desk through air ducts. :P

    1. Someone should submit that as a request to


  3. Yeah, I'd like to ask Scott some questions... like why did he ruin my childhood? Okay, seriously-
    Regarding Psycho:
    1) Writing aside, it was filled with a lot of game-breaking bugs. Was this game your first-ever commercial effort?
    2) How did feel about Psycho, as a player, and not as a programmer?
    3) Was there anything you wished were done on the game (a) during the programming, (b) after it shipped and (c) today?
    Regarding Questprobe:
    1) Although Marvel wasn't as big as what it is today, it was still a very established entertainment brand name. How did you feel when you became the creative lead of games for such a recognized franchise?
    2) What were your expectations for those games and were you satisfied with the results?
    3) The games were seriously tough for preteens and/or people who were not exposed to the comic book characters. (Case in point: Turning into Hulk by smashing my head on the ground? Having to request Spidey specifically to use his Spider Strength to open an elevator door?) Who was your target audience?
    General questions:
    1) You seem to be heavily biased towards Text Adventures. Given that development time for making such games are usually 30% programming/70% writing, versus Graphic Adventures whose development time proportion is usually 70% programming/30% writing instead, do you have any special reason for this love?
    2) Which game that you made was your own favorite and why?
    3) Which are your favorite games (including those made by other companies)?
    4) Good text adventures have a large amount of choices and story paths; equivalent to writing several stories instead of one; where do you get your inspirations from to handle such a huge task?

  4. I must admit that I was rather hoping you wouldn't solve the Ringmaster's puzzle, as while reading my mind said 'did you try to close your eyes?'

    Scott, I already indirectly asked this in the previous thread - why Spiderman, and not a 'science-y' sort that would better fit the text adventure mold?

    1. The Ringmaster's puzzle was made much simpler by having had a "close eyes" puzzle in Questprobe #1. That game was a good introduction to the way that Scott approaches adventure game puzzle design and so knowing how that played out, some puzzles this time were a bit simpler. I suspect I would have been better prepared for The Hulk if I had played other AI games first.

      I have decided that I really *would* like to play all of the AI games, especially now that I know that I might be able to pepper Mr. Adams with questions about them. I think the "SAGA" graphical versions could fit nicely with the other graphical adventures we have been doing as missed classics. That said, I have a lot of other games on my plate to play first so we'll see what happens.

      I almost have been considering doing a poll to ask what game I should play next, but that seems a bit egocentric. I am torn between Melbourne House's "The Hobbit" (the top-selling graphical adventures of the period), St. Bride's "Bugsy" (a cute game that I remember from my childhood, essentially Bugs Bunny in a gangster setting), or AI's "Adventureland", starting off the rest of the Scott Adams adventures. After my post-Questprobe break and either before or right after Willie Beamish.

    2. (But my OCD may require me to play "The Secret of St. Bride's" before "Bugsy" since that game came before the one I want to play. I have this thing with playing games in order. You may have noticed.)

  5. Hey guys, I may need some help. I'm working on the intro post for Questprobe #3, but am stuck already at the first puzzle: rescuing the Thing from the tarpit. I am going to keep working at it and I may yet solve it without hints (I hope so!), but if anyone wants to reply with some rot13 hints (in the usual way, from less to more specific), I would appreciate it.

    I suspect it is "easy" and I'm just not approaching it the right way.

    1. I know nothing about the game, other than what you said above and that apparently this game is both Human Torch and Thing. So here are my completely uninformed and quite likely incorrect guesses:

      - whfg yvtug gur gne ba sver. Guvat'f gbhtu, znlor gur gne jvyy ohea njnl naq ur pna jnyx bhg?
      - znlor lbh arrq gb gryy Guvat gb onyy hc be fbzrguvat svefg fb gung ur fheivirf gur sver
      - whfg chyy uvz bhg?
      - cbffvoyl lbh arrq gb "syl", GURA chyy uvz bhg?
      - pynffvpnyyl, jura erfphvat fbzrbar sebz gne be dhvpxfnaq, lbh arrq gb ernpu fbzrguvat gb gurz
      - ner gurer nal gerrf be enqvb nagraanf be ohvyqvatf arneol gung n fhcreureb pbhyq xabpx bire vagb gur gne cvg?

    2. A Bit of googling revealed that this is actually pretty difficult puzzle:

      1. Guvat unf cerggl vauhzna pncnovyvgvrf
      2. Vs lbh'ir rire cynlrq Fcnpr Dhrfg 2, lbh zvtug unir frra n fvzvyne chmmyr
      3. Jung'f gur bayl guvat gb qb jura lbh ner nobhg gb ybfr nyy bkltra sebz lbhe yhatf?
      4. UBYQ OERNGU

    3. Wow, I was completely on the wrong track. Tricksy gameses.

    4. Hmm. I'm not going to look at the answers yet, but given Fry's response I am looking forward to beating my head against this for a while before giving up. I have some more things I thought to try today.

    5. Thank you guys! I managed to solve the puzzle on my own tonight. (There was a hint in the manual, if you read it closely)

  6. Questions for Scott Adams:
    1. I see you released a "modern" adventure game in 2000, "Return to Pirate's Island 2", and that it was very well received. Can you tell us a bit about the making of that game, and how it compared to making adventure games in the 1980s? Why did you decide not to make more adventure games after that?

    2. Fifteen years later, would you mind releasing some figures from that game - development cost, marketing cost, and sales numbers / revenue?

    3. I read once that you often sold more hint books than games; Al Lowe had the same experience with his Leisure Suit Larry hint books. Did piracy make your games unprofitable, and/or did you accept that the pirates were never really part of your market?

    4. Have you played the 1990s Sierra and LucasArts adventure games (including Hero's Quest / Quest for Glory)? Do you have any general or specific critiques of any of them? How would you have improved them?

    1. I searched around to find one of these legendary hint books, but haven't found one yet. From what I have read online, he only published one book and just kept adding to it (so that it would have the solution to all his previous games as well). Not sure if that is true.

      I have to admit that googling for things that Scott Adams wrote is quite challenging given the name coincidence.

  7. Any chance of a collaboration with that other Scott Adams to make a Dilbert text adventure? :P

  8. Is the bio-gem thing related at all to the Infinity Gems showing up in recent Marvel movies?

    1. Not related, as far as we know. The story behind the bio gems was never quite finished, but they are prisons of some sort for evil alien consciousnesses. (Not sure if this was revealed in this game or the next one, so that may be a spoiler. Sorry!)

      On the other hand, Infinity Gems are just butt-kicking stones of power that look good on a glove.