Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Castle of Dr. Brain -­ Robots and Logic

Written by Reiko

The second-floor corridor looks a lot like the first-floor corridor, complete with violent decorations. Below was a suit of armor; here there are some spears. Supposedly Dr. Brain is "throwing them out" because he "hates violence" but really, why leave them in a bin in a random corridor, then? Why not melt them down for the metal, or throw them into whatever gorge is being bridged by that bridge seen in the intro screen, or something?

Second floor hallway with random spears.

The door on the left isn't accessible yet, so I start with the door on the right. Inside is a gigantic representation of computer circuits, with resistors, capacitors, etc sitting around. The first puzzle is to get the central computer restarted by assembling its main circuit. The rules for assembly are displayed on the red screen, so it's really just a logic puzzle, not a computer puzzle, and with only five components, it's very simple.

Six instructions for five components.

The power source must come first, so that's the battery. The yellow component must come last, so that's the capacitor. Banded elements must come after switches, so the resistor goes after the switch. And the slowing down component (the resistor) must come before the whirling component (the coil). So the order is battery -> switch -> resistor -> coil -> capacitor.

The completed circuit.

The next puzzle is just an exercise in converting decimal to binary. While it relates to computers, it's really just math. Converting all the numbers yields a magnetic data card.

Somehow converting a few numbers fixes a stereo system.

The other door from the hallway leads to a robot maze. I think there's another robot puzzle later, because this isn't the one I remember. In fact, I don't remember this one at all. This robot just keeps moving forward in a straight line unless it hits an activated intersection, when it turns right instead, or a blank wall, when it turns around and goes back the way it came. The robot must be guided through the maze to pick up all the A icons, which represent answers used for the robot riddles at the end of the hallway, without running into the teleport swirls, which can be deactivated by using the green switches.

I am not sure why there are dinosaur fossils in the background of this puzzle...

I'm not going to give a detailed description of guiding the robot, but by planning ahead, it's possible to know exactly what the robot will do, and then it's just a matter of activating or deactivating intersections to control which way the robot goes. The trickiest part is right at the end to navigate the close sequence of switches and teleporters, but with a bit of practice to get the right setup ahead of time, I didn't have any trouble. The resulting robot riddles are basically just bad jokes. Like: "What kind of computer does a dairy farmer use? A cowculator". "What do robot rabbits do best? Multiply." Groan. I matched the five answers from the robot maze to the five jokes, and there we go.

”...It has square roots."

The next room is the robot puzzle I was thinking of before. There are three robot heads, one of which always tells the truth and follows instructions, one that always lies and does the opposite of what you tell it, and one that's confused and alternates following and not following instructions. I think on lower difficulties the heads might be identified directly, but on Expert, they each give a statement and it's a logic puzzle to first figure out which is which. Or trial and error is probably sufficient.

Why would you deliberately program a robot to lie? (Because puzzles, I guess.)

There are also three robot arms, one for each of the items in the maze. The robot must be programmed to pick up and deliver each item out of the maze using the (now very dated-looking) computer sitting on the table. Yes, this is a simulation of using a punch-card system to program a robot arm. Archaic! (I personally never used punch cards, by the way. My parents did, but my first memories of computers were of Apple II and DOS.)

I'll start with Saucer Head, who says he's the only precise order-follower. That sounds like it could be accurate because the other two could be the confused and liar heads, so I start working on the program to make it pick up the iron plate with the metallic arm.

Is he telling the truth, or is he lying? We'll find out!

I don't really care which is which, honestly. You have to use all three anyway, because somehow they all end up with "a few screws loose" after retrieving just one item. And there's no penalty for re-writing the program if it doesn't work the way you intended. Oddly enough, even if the program executes correctly to the end without error, if it doesn't retrieve an item, it doesn't break the head. Plus the arms disappear once they're used also. Where do they go? No one knows...

And nope, Saucer Head is a liar. Which makes Iron Face correct and Propeller confused, because Iron Face says Saucer Head doesn't follow directions, and Propeller says he follows directions and so does Iron Face. Well of course, they're all going to claim they follow directions properly, right? Anyway, the only tricky bit about getting Saucer Head to get the metal plate out of the maze, aside from reversing all the directions, is that the left wall requires three forward moves to get to the turn, not just two. It looks like the maze is a three by four grid, but it's not as straightforward as it looks.

Each of the three items has to be retrieved individually with the properly corresponding arm.

After a couple of tries, the metal plate is mine, and I move on to using Propeller to get the book with the forklift arm. First I write the instructions to get it, and then I go through and reverse every other instruction. It works perfectly. Finally, I can use Iron Face to get the plastic sheet with the suction arm, and I know he'll follow my instructions as written, so I don't have to reverse anything. The only snag is that the sheet is farther right than it looks like it should be, just like the left wall is longer than it looks, but that's quickly fixed, and I acquire the sheet.

The third program completed successfully.

The wall behind the robot has now opened. Find out next time where it takes me!

Session Time: 1 hours 0 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes

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!


  1. I've been waiting to see someone else write it down - am I the only one who feels that those spears are just there for the 'throwing out' pun? No? (Well done keeping a certain level of interest in what isn't really an easy game to talk about - the game is definitely more of a puzzle-a-thon than anything, which I don't say at all as a bad thing.)

    1. It's known as "artistic license". I gave very little direction to the artists on this game - the focus was strictly on the puzzles. There is no mention of spears in the description of that hallway. However, under art assets, there is a mention of "twirling mace head". I assume they actually meant a morningstar, but I'm not sure if a programmer implemented it since I see no mace/morningstar in the screen shot.

      After the artists and programmers go crazy on creating the visual look of a scene, I go back and write text to support it. It could be a pun if one pops into my head, otherwise straight description.

    2. Actually, I hadn't thought of it as a pun, really, but I see what you mean. I guess the spears came first and then the joke, though.

  2. I didn't like that the distances in the robot-arm maze were weird, but overall I enjoyed this section. I got stuck a bit on the logic puzzle of assembling the computer circuit, because I didn't realize that the components could rotate - I assumed since some defaulted to vertical and others defaulted to horizontal, they had to be deployed that way.