Thursday 1 December 2011

Game 1: Below the Root - Won!

After an epic final session of gaming (about three hours), I’ve finished Below the Root. I’ll admit that I didn’t find it particularly easy towards the end, and I also think that luck played a role in getting me across the line. After finally making my way past (over to be precise) the temple gate, I was confronted with several doors that still required the blasted temple key that had avoided me thus far. Thankfully the inhabitants of Temple Grund started directing me to the top of the tree to find the so-called “lost” key, so that was quickly in my possession. This gave me access to the temple itself, where Raamo’s mother gave me the spirit points I needed to kiniport myself from place to place (previously I’d only been able to kiniport items, but I wasn’t actually aware of that), and also advised me to seek the spirit lamp as it “shines without end”.

Cool, thanks for the tip! haven't seen Raamo around anywhere have you?

This is where things got complicated. I knew that I had to go “below the root” to seek Raamo, but I couldn’t see any way to achieve this. My frustration was exacerbated when I found the Forgotten Chamber that D’ol Falla had directed me to, only to find that I needed yet another key that wasn’t in my possession. I spent quite a bit of time trying to reach various branches, nooks and crannies, hoping to find an area I hadn’t yet explored, without success. In the end I decided to start pensing all the temple grund residents again in hope that I’d simply missed a vital piece of information. This turned out to be my saviour when I was told to “climb at the base of the center trunk”. Having spent very little time on the ground itself, I’d overlooked some rather well hidden steps that started me on my way to finding the key I required.

If you weren't blue and computer generated, I'd kiss you! Mind you, that Avatar chick was alright.

It shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that plays adventure games that getting as much information out of every character as possible can be the difference between knowing what to do next and floundering about aimlessly looking for something, anything, to get you back on track. Below the Root is no exception to this, but the completely open-ended playing area, as opposed to the bordered off, closed in sections so often found in modern games, means that you could have been given the clue you needed five days ago by a Green-sky inhabitant six trees away from where you are now, and have no recollection of it when you really need it. Never has writing down every single thing you’re told by every character been more important than it is in Below the Root. Thankfully, I’m extremely meticulous when it comes to this sort of thing, which saved me having to cover previous ground collecting clues too much.

Let me guess...I need another key don't I!!!???

Assuming the Forgotten Chamber would lead me underground somehow, I rested and fed in preparation for whatever lurked down there, and unlocked the doors. Once again my assumption was incorrect, but I did unearth the spirit lamp that Raamo’s mother recommended I find. So, I had enough spirit skill to use all the possible abilities, I had in my possession the spirit lamp from the Forgotten Chamber, and I’d already collected the spirit bell from D’ol Nesham at the top of the Sky Grund, but I still had no idea how to get beneath the surface of Green-sky to find Raamo. Long story short, I spent half an hour or so travelling along the forest floor, looking for a way to teleport myself into an area underground (there isn't one), and entering the numerous buildings on the ground in hope that one of them would reveal something new. As it turned out, what I was looking for was found in the very last building at the very left edge of the map. I’m pretty sure it’s the only house I hadn’t checked out at any stage so far, so I only had myself to blame.

I know I came in here for a what was it?!

Once I was “below the root”, the game finished rather quickly, which I guess was a bit of an anticlimax given how much effort went into getting there. From what I can tell, this whole section would be much more challenging without the spirit lamp, as without it you would have to keep finding more and more honey lamps or be left in the dark. I made my way pretty easily through the tunnels and found Raamo standing on a ledge, unable to get down and escape the underground. Kiniporting myself next to him and giving him either a vine rope or a shuba completed the quest and the game ended very abruptly. Basically I got a message saying “the quest is over and Green-sky is saved”, before being told that I’d “finished the quest in 10 days” and was therefore a “master quester”. All of a sudden I found myself back at the menu, wondering what exactly Raamo was going to do to reunite the Kindars and Erdlings and whether I would receive any sort of thanks for sacrificing my valuable time.

Whoever wrote BOTTOMLESS LAKE on the wall can't possibly have tested that theory.

Well...that's 1 game down, about 250 to go! I enjoyed Below the Root so much more than first impressions suggested I would. Once I got past the first confusing hour and things started to make sense, I found the clue collecting and platform exploration to be very satisfying. The spirit skills add extra depth to the game in that every time you gain a new one, you can go back to previously visited areas and look at them in a new light. The slight role playing aspects of the game were certainly groundbreaking, as was the almost harmless environment within which the player could explore and concentrate on the mystery without being concerned for their life. Snyder's decision to use the Below the Root video game as the fourth volume of her "trilogy" was also a brave and innovative idea that no doubt pleased any of her fans that had the technology to enjoy it at their disposal. Stay tuned for my very first PISSED rating tomorrow.

You saved Green-sky from here? Why didn't you just do that before!?


  1. Sorry it's been so long since I checked in. I'm catching up now. Congratulations on winning your first. I always find games based on books to be particularly difficult because they don't have their own internal logic.

  2. ....I thought the whole point of the game was to *fix* the weak ending of the original books? Opps.

    1. Now I really want to read the books. Maybe the controversial ending involved trapping Raamo on that ledge. (I hope it's not as big a letdown as the end of Animorphs was.)

  3. ZK Snyder authored "weirdness books". The plots of most of the ones I read centered around the question of whether actual magic was involved, or if it was just the characters' imaginations.

    Black and Blue Magic was one of my favorites; it had actual magic. The son of a stage magician (who had no interest or talent in doing magic tricks himself) gets a visit from a bottle of magic potion that makes him grow wings. He flies around the city at night, but I can't remember exactly what scrapes he gets into.

    The Library had only the first two of the "Green Sky" books, so it was years later that I was able to find and read "Until the Celebration". It was a bit of a let-down, but I never made the connection that the game was supposed to be a "fourth" part of the story. Actually, "Below the Root" and "And All Between" told basically the same story, but from different perspectives, as I recall; one told the story from the Kindar point of view, the other from the Erdling's POV.

    "The Egypt Game" was about a group of kids who find some Egyptian artifacts or props or something in a neighbor's garage, and start pretending to be priests and priestesses of Osiris and Isis (or something like that), when weird things start to happen.

    "The Great Stanley Kidnapping Case" is about a disfunctional Brady-bunch type family that gets kidnapped, and winds up being a real headache to the kidnappers. "The Headless Cupid" and "Blair's Nightmare" are sequals.

    The point of my rambling is that playing video games was actually a gateway to some nice reading material, for me.

    On another note, did you or will you play the "Alice in Wonderland" game by Wyndham Classics? It's much funnier, and the puzzles will drive you insane, but it has a more satisfying feel to it. It was years before I could figure out this riddle:

    "What is pleased and not pleased?
    What contains it all, and yet contains nothing?"

    1. That game looks pretty interesting, although it's text based. Even though it shows graphical icons for the inventory, and a display for each area, the input appears to be entirely through text. A couple links to make Trickster's life a little easier:

    2. Zenic, I think greymerryfaire was referring to this Alice game:

      As for why Trickster didn't play it, it looks as if it wasn't released for DOS...

    3. Wow, I had no idea that Dale created another game using the same engine. Just looking at the screenshots makes me want to play it! Wonderland is a perfect environment for Below the Root style gameplay.

      Zenic is right though...the game was only ever released for C64 and Apple II.

    4. Ah I see Charles. My mistake. I had looked for "Alice in Wonderland Adventure game for DOS," and that was the only game that came up.

      Trickster, while I enjoy being right, I made no such affirmation as I had the wrong game. Charles was the one that suggested no DOS release.

    5. Check out the virtual apple page if you're curious.

    6. There's an answer to this riddle? (Haven't played the game, but the only riddle I remember from Alice in Wonderland is the one about the raven and the writing desk, which explicitly has no answer.)

  4. Aaaahhh my bad! Sorry Charles. That's what happens when you sneak a few responses to comments on your blog while you're in the office.

  5. Thanks Zenic, and no problem Trickster. :-D
    I never played these games, and I only came to know about them thanks to Home of the Underdogs (and the glowing praise Sarinee bestowed on BtR).

    I had actually thought of asking you about Windham's Alice and forgot - that is before learning that it hadn't been released for the PC.

    Have a nice day at work - we here in South America are soon going to bed...

  6. Nice job. Interesting that the game ended so abruptly. But I find that's often an issue of adventure games. Whether due to technical limitations of disk space, or running out of steam, it seems the early parts take out a disproportionately large part.