Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Missed Classic: Hollywood Hijinx - Atomic Chihuahuas from Hell

Written by Joe Pranevich

Like this, but atomic and from Hell. 

Hollywood Hijinx has been a fairly breezy game so far, neither too challenging nor too serious. When we left off last week, I explored the first floor of the house and recovered two of Uncle Buddy’s “treasures”, film props of dubious value that I must collect to inherit the family fortune. Not everything has been perfect-- the hour I spent mapping an oversized maze was not time well spent-- but it’s good enough. While I do not understand (yet?) the distaste that some have for this game, it’s a thinner experience than most Infocom adventures. It doesn’t aspire to be more than a cute treasure hunt and that’s okay, but it remains to be seen how that will translate into a rating once I’m through.

My plan for this post was to play the game to completion and knock out a quick rating, but I didn’t make it. With luck, we’ll wrap up next time. 

Before I begin, I should remind readers that I play these games like an insane rabbit who tried to give up coffee but keeps getting drawn back into its dark embrace. I jump around from puzzle to puzzle, trying one thing and then another, and return when I have a better idea even if it’s in the middle of doing something else. None of that makes great reading, so the following is a mildly sanitized account of my explorations where I knock down one puzzle after another in sequence. Do not be fooled, I spent a lot of time just beating my head against things. Now that you understand why I can never stream on Twitch, let’s get to the game!

Sunday, 2 August 2020

Lost Secret of the Rainforest - Abducted!

Written by Reiko

Adam’s Journal #1: "We’re finally here in Peru! I’m so excited to be able to help my dad with his project of setting up sustainable industries for the native peoples here. I wonder what kinds of animals I’ll get to see while we’re here? The rainforest is full of so much variety. I can’t wait to get started!"

This guy's totally shady.

Adam and his father Noah have just landed in Peru, but of course we have to go through customs before we can start exploring. In the introduction, I forgot to mention that the shady surveyor's character has a couple of actual voiced lines, which is an interesting contrast to most of the other dialogue, which is only text. He says, "This place is a sewer" and, after bumping into our ride, "Watch the suit!" before brushing himself off and stalking away to the right.

When it's Adam's turn, I open the passport in his inventory and show it to the customs officer [10 points], who stamps it, waves Adam through, and then promptly puts his head down on his desk and appears to take a nap. Nobody else is waiting in the customs line, after all.

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Missed Classic 87: Hollywood Hijinx (1987) - Introduction

Written by Joe Pranevich

At the dawn of 1987, Infocom wasn’t the company that it once was. A scrappy gaggle of cutting-edge game developers had grown too large, made some bad choices, and was struggling to survive. The new bosses at Activision wanted to profit off their investment and since Infocom games weren’t selling like in the good old days, they just asked Infocom to make more of them-- with the same resources-- to make up for it. Simple, right? The result was a year that was their most prolific as well as the nadir of their commercial success. Even as commercialism failed them, 1987 will see innovations such as the first romance game (Plundered Hearts), the first horror game (Lurking Horror), the first weird wordplay game (Nord and Bert), plus reinventing what a Zork game could be. None of those were commercially successful, but I haven’t played more than a few minutes of any to say how good they really were. At least Infocom was still out there doing interesting things.

That brings us to Hollywood Hijinx, the first of this mad rush of games. Developed by a new pair of Implementors, Dave Anderson and Liz Cyr-Jones, the game appears to be a throwback to the Zork games of yesteryear, with a “puzzle house” to explore and treasures to collect. For reasons that may (or may not) become apparent later, this is Anderson and Cyr-Jones’s only released game. How will it work out? I’ll have to play it to see.

Monday, 20 July 2020

Missed Classic: Moonmist - Unfinished Business

Written by Joe Pranevich

Moonmist is an almost-unique experiment in the Infocom canon, a “replayable” game that featured four different mysteries to solve in one convenient package. As we have seen, the end result didn’t quite live up to the promise and it is presently the lowest-rated game so far in this marathon. We could compare Moonmist’s approach with Cutthroats, for example-- the former placed more puzzles in the same space, while the latter provided separate areas to explore in its variants-- but neither approach was completely satisfying.

Although we played through the four cases, I have since discovered that Moonmist aspired to much more. In 2019, the source code for most of the Infocom adventures was leaked online. That has been a treasure trove of information for the last few entries in this series, especially Trinity where I was able to look at original design documents and trace the development of the game from concept to execution. In Moonmist’s case, these sources reveal that not only were two additional cases nearly completed (“violet” and “orange” variants), but also that the game was to feature gendered variations in all six scavenger hunts. Moonmist was intended to be twelve games in one, not just four!

I’d like to wrap up Moonmist (and 1986) by looking at the game that might have been, if Lawrence and Galley just had a bit more time-- or a bit more RAM. I’ll look at the two new cases first before taking a look at the changes planned for the four that we already played. Who else was a murderer?