Thursday, 27 August 2015

Spellcasting 201 - A Tourguide's Work Is Never Done

By Aperama

A Tourguide to Spellcasting U!
Welcome! You've made it, finally. All of those years of neglect from your parents are behind you now! You're at the premiere college of Sorcery, Wizardry and Other Magical Type Things: Sorcerer's University. To give you a full and proper idea of the sort of fun, education and quite possibly, hijinks you might be in for, we're going to follow one of our most famous students. Only in his sophomore year, Ernie Eaglebeak has had far more excitement than the average student, having both left University grounds to search up **REDACTED** and **REDACTED** Ernie even won a trophy for it! So, given this is an average lazy Sunday for Ernie, he starts in the Simulation Lab – a solid three hour treatment carefully studying his use of magic. Naturally, for the experienced Ernie, the simulation is just a matter of carefully crafted sorcery. He succeeds, leaving some animated bananas to do all of his work for him – after all, why wouldn't a future Sorcery Superstar? This is Pledge Week for Ernie, and he has fallen into the venerable halls of the Hu Delta Phart fraternity. He starts his day with a delicious plate of casserole from the Cafeteria, spending a short amount of time at the on-campus Pub. Naturally, he's a tee-totaller, but it still gives him a chance to look around the Student Union, taking his time to walk through Meltingwolf Hall, his old freshman haunts in Frogkisser House – and then heads through Yakbladder Quad to his own room back at the hallowed halls of HDP, just one of the many fraternities here at SU. Lucky Ernie has an envelope waiting for him on his bed from his former Professor and the new Dean of SU, Otto Tickingclock himself! He rushes down to meet up with the Professor at his requests, and **REDACTED** That's just one day in the life of an SU student! Join up today!


The University has grown big-time!
(I skipped several rooms that I guessed had nothing of note in them,
 e.g. all of the upstairs of the fraternities)


Spellcasting definitely has a mood and feeling all of its own. It manages to be both irreverently silly and have just enough of a serious plot in the background to keep you interested. The music in the opening intro screen (which is just a recap of the events in Spellcasting 201) is, while not fantastic, definitely both good enough to keep you from clawing at your ears and fits the silliness of the game. I'm aware that the games from this era were still big into making loud and obnoxious sounds (the 'Realsound' gimmick involved making decent-sounding things out of ye olde PC Speaker, and this game has a Realsound credit). Things like the 'clocktower ringing' are enough to keep me from praising the sounds too much (both deafening and annoying!) Still, it's the first thing that grabs your attention apart from the re-used images that set the aforementioned recap of Spellcasting 101. It manages to stay silly throughout, consistently tooting its own horn '… It was Ocarina, Goddess of Beauty, who uttered the most seductive line in adventure gaming history – “Ever make it with a Goddess?”' and giving things like 'Mr. Meretzky's Hair done by Lisbeth of Bedfordport' during the credits.


Don't remind me, game!

The game proper starts you in a bizarre and unexpected fashion, immediately leaving you in the middle of a puzzle that almost feels reminiscent of King's Quest 3 – you're a sorcerer's apprentice and have to fill a bathtub. The game only leaves you with a spellbook, a banana, a fruit slicer and a bucket. No – you can't fill it with the bucket. Naturally, your spellbook is where the fix lies. You have the ever-present BIP spell (cast romantic music), FRIMP (levitation) and PRENT (animate yellow fruit). No mandrake root, cat hair and fish oil here, though. Instead, the obvious solution is to animate the banana. One banana with a tiny bucket to fill a bathtub, however? Not going to work! Instead, slicing the banana whilst it's animated (then squishing it for good measure) has it grow back regardless, and another, then another – until a small army of bananas are doing the work, moving the water between the well two screens out and the bathtub. The trouble is, there's no way of stopping the errant bananas when they begin their work, leaving them refilling the tub ad nauseum. It turns out that the PRENT spell has gone a little haywire. Thankfully, a package arrives for your sorcerous master – an apology for the out of hand nature of PRENT, along with a complimentary spellbox of FOY – 'create daiquiri'. I'll let the screenshots explain from here..


They're not in pyjamas, but they are coming down the stairs


Sadly, I'm guessing that it's a virgin daiquiri


Aw, I'm not really playing King's Quest 3 and ½? And I don't even get any points?

As you might have guessed, we were really in the Simulation Room from 101. From here on out, it's possible to wander around the entirety of SU at will, with the exception of a few places (the library above Meltingwolf Hall is closed off 'until Spellcasting 301' due to some idiot using an 'inflating bust' spell in there, for instance) though the in-game timer of 5 minutes per turn does make it pretty hard to fully explore given you fall asleep at midnight no matter what you do). A few reloads, however, and it didn't take long to fully make my way around the place. Of the original areas accessible in 101, there are a few new areas within them (including the somewhat bizarre move of adding a lobby for Meltingwolf Hall with an additional office nearby of a Professor Moldybreadcrust - he teaches 301 also, so his office doesn't seem too interesting), Sorcerer's Stadium now also has a locker room (complete with a bag and stinky gym clothes), pool room and the ability to run out onto the pitch and live out your sporting dreams. I can only imagine that this means that Ernie will be enlisting in sports, given he's also signed up to Physical Skills 201 with Competitive Jousting in his schedule. Thankfully, I've always loved the idea of jousting! The cafeteria also has an upstairs 'Trustee Anteroom' complete with an 'inner circle' – there's a noted lack of information as to what exactly this is, but I imagine it has something to do with the board of people who either run the fraternities or pay for the university itself? Feel free to point out the obvious for me!


At least I understand what the green button in the cafeteria is for!
Now I just need to work out what needs dumbwaiting..

The rest of the newly renovated University is all new screens of goodness. Instead of just petering out in the north with a placeholder lobby that leads to nowhere as it did in the previous game, you can continue further to the north or the northeast. Continuing past the cafeteria is the notional exit of SU – I can't continue further on, but that's quite enough for my liking (as you can see from the map I put together, this new section of the game has a lot of new screens). Near the exit is both the 'nerd' fraternity, Gramma Eta Pi, and the one Ernie is pledged to, Hu Delta Phart. The fraternity house surprisingly affords Ernie his own room (I figured pledges would get some sort of communal rooming given they haven't actually joined the fraternity as yet in normal circumstances, right?) and the ominous threat as we walk through by the Pledgemaster, Chris Cowpatty, that we're to be initiated. (Hazed.) The 'trophy display case' of HDP has a spellbox in it (PISEKS - 'maturation'). And a bunch of bad jokes. In Ernie's room is a trophy that pretty much says 'congratulations, you won Spellcasting 101', a bedsheet (always useful, I hope!) and an envelope from our former Professor-now-Dean, Otto Tickingclock. He wants us at President's House at 9 PM for a special meeting – and really, who is Ernie Eaglebeak to say no?


sexton [sek-stuhn] – noun. An official of a church charged with taking care of the
edifice and its contents, ringing the bell etc.

Southeast of the main entrance is what seems to be the new hub of S-U, Yakbladder Quad, which has a blueprint fly into it as soon as we enter it – I'm guessing it's the copy protection, given it mentions that if you pirated the game you're going to be stuck without it. North of there is one of the new buildings, Ivorytower.. well, tower, I'm guessing, given that everything in it is pretty well up and down – inside, there's an alchemy lab (which has a huge amount of items inside it), a clocktower, then a statue sitting above it – and underneath, a hidden lab that has been closed off. There's also an auditorium within the tower building, which means that a great deal of time is no doubt going to be spent running between places.. a problem in a game where five minutes passes between each successful command. East of Yakbladder is the Student Union – a place for students to hang around and relax.. er, study. Inside is a janitor's closet with more in it than the Student Union itself – only two things, to be fair. A how-to book that appears to be on plumbing with a plumbers tool coupon inside it ('you feel confident that you could fix a washer, build a municipal reservoir or anything in between') along with a WOOSH spellbox (remove tough oils) hidden behind an extremely strong case.


I mentioned earlier that I disliked many of the sounds ingame
– the patented 'BOI-OI-OI-OING' noise was not one of these

Upstairs from the Student Union is a music room which contains a 'moodhorn' along with a manual how to play it (which is available on the Museum of Computer Adventure Game History.. and I'm sure will help with Music 114 and Beginner Moodhorn) – downstairs is a pub with a broken jukebox that still flashes proudly with colours along with a pellet of Dehydrated Rum, which is simply too tempting to avoid snatching up even were I not an adventure game protagonist. I'm barely even giving fair credence to the sheer amount of stuff that you can do – you can still sit around in places, walk in on parties where you're not invited, sit by and watch an entire game of Malls n' Muggers – this really is a game which likes to give you countless options. Still, on with the plot from here! Walking all the way down to the President's House (gathering the blueprint to the sewers, a pellet of dehydrated rum, a serving of bad casserole, a gym bag and a coupon for a free plumbing tool from the how-to book in the janitor's closet along the way) leaves us there early due to me looking through just about everything I could find with a DEPLUMIT spell box ('descending') ripe for the picking. It's a level 4 spell, so we can't cast it, but it goes handily into our spellbook.


And now for the story!

So, as the back of the box and the manual alluded to, the new Dean Tickingclock has decided that given we have already senselessly risked our lives for Sorcerer's University before that we are clearly ready to do it again. Go team! He gives us an ancient key to the hidden laboratory underneath Ivory Tower (I'm just calling it that – supposedly it's named after a Professor Ivorytower but it's the logical name for the building), gives us an extremely tiny amount more information on the Appliance – that along with the Great Attachments that Joey Rottenwood had filched in the previous game, there are some 'Even Greater' Attachments - the Sextant of Spittul, the Sheet Metal Bender of Balmoral, the Donkey Harness of Danderville, the Cookie Cutter of Curdle, the Garter Belt of Gekko and the Bubblewand of Blackwand – apparently, all lost from within the university itself. Tickingclock also gives us a 'premonition' – on each of the next five days, the Appliance will fulfill a 'vital role' in Ernie's life, and come Friday, it will serve a vital role in his life too (possibly the very survival of the university)! Heavy stuff! Now, to go to sleep so that we can be 'initiated' in the morning..


As a side note, apparently, this is Steve Meretzky's favorite picture from Spellcasting 101.
I still don't get what's going on with that pincer hanging out of the skull's nose

Session Time: 1 hour (plus 40 for the map)
Total Time: 1 hour

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!

12 comments:

  1. Why didn't you punch Cowpatty, that worthless piece of shit? Why? You have to punch him everyday!

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  2. "I still don't get what's going on with that pincer hanging out of the skull's nose"

    Isn't it coming out of the eye socket? I suppose there's another crab living in there.

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    Replies
    1. Nope, ain't seeing it. Probably a visual faux pas. Harhar!

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  3. I wonder:
    vs gur frkgnag va gur gebcul pnfr ng gur seng ubhfr vf bar bs gur rira terngre nggnpuzragf

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  4. Dangit, I didn't see this post when I made my score guess. Guess that means it doesn't count.

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    Replies
    1. I'd suggest that nobody would have a problem with counting it, doubly given you've guessed along the lower band (I think that this post was fairly positively inclined). Thoughts, peoples?

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    2. I am happy with making it count, since this post hasn't really gone that far into the game itself.

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    3. Sounds good! To justify my guess: I'm skeptical of sequels, and the part of the game I thought sounded most fun was the part everybody else seemed to hate (the pun island, which would have been a laugh--or at least an amused groan--a minute for me).

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  5. army of bananas are doing the work, moving the water between the well two screens out and the bathtub. The trouble is, there's no way of stopping the errant bananas when they begin their work, leaving them refilling the tub ad nauseum.

    .... Spellcasting 201 ripped off The Sorcerer's Apprentice, but with Bananas?

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, this sequence is a clear parody of Fantasia.

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