Friday, 9 March 2012

Game 12: Mortville Manor - Pillow Talk

Jérôme Lange Journal Entry 3: “I’m afraid this case is proving to be a tough one to crack. While I continue to find clues that are worthy of following up, further investigation is leading to dead ends. I have spent a great deal of time attempting to get down into the well and also in the cellar where I believe a secret passage may exist, yet a solution to those puzzles evades me. I have since focussed my attention on trying to gain entrance to Julia’s bedroom, which has been locked since my arrival here at Mortville Manor. When I ask the family members about her bedroom, they all direct me to Leo, but when I questioned Leo about it he simply told me he would prefer it to remain locked. I tried to break in but failed, so I then retrieved all the keys I’d seen previously in the house and tried them on the door to no avail. Finally, out of desperation, I searched Leo’s room for the key and found it hidden under his pillow! Within the room I have uncovered a third cryptic parchment, which I’m hoping will lead me to some answers around here. It has taken a lot of perseverance, but I’m one step closer to finding out what happened to Julia and who was behind it.”

The last few sessions with Mortville Manor have been pretty frustrating. It’s not even that I haven’t known what to do (although I have needed a hint at one point), it’s that the game is so specific about how things are to be done that its caused me to spend hours wasting time. I still don’t understand why I can’t climb into the well now that I’ve attached a rope, and it’s very possible that I would be able to do it if only I used the interface in a precise way. Having so many actions to choose from in the menu system makes the simplest of tasks complicated, and I can’t help but wonder why the creators didn’t replace half of them with a “use” action. Did they really need attach, close, eat, enter, force, knock, lift, open, place, put, read, scratch, smell, sound and turn actions (this is not even all of them by the way)? A simple use action could replace them all! How do I climb down the well? There’s no climb action. When Enter fails to work, I can’t be certain whether that means it’s not possible to climb into the well or whether there’s another way that I haven’t tried. I therefore find myself standing in the same spot trying endless actions to achieve something that may or may not be possible in the first place.

It wouldn't surprise me if the developers of the game used something shaped like this during it's creation

If you’ve read through the comments on my last post, you’d know that I requested a hint a couple of days ago, as I’d experienced a two hour period of achieving absolutely nothing. There have been a few times during other games where someone has given me a hint, noticing that I was not on the right track or had missed something vital (like the amulet in Uninvited), but I think this is the first time I’ve thrown my hands in the air and asked for direction. Daubeur came to the rescue, hinting that there was a third cryptic parchment that was located in Julia’s bedroom, and that this parchment would help me to figure out what I was supposed to do next. That’s a great hint by the way, as it informed me of an item that would help my progress, without giving away too much. He didn’t tell me how to get into Julia’s room, which is locked, and he also made no reference to what the parchment actually says. He simply allowed me to focus all of my attention on getting into the room, rather than wandering around aimlessly, which is just the push I needed. Unfortunately, getting into the bedroom has proved to be just as challenging as everything that came before it.

What exactly did they answer with? Go away!? Come in!? Nearly finished!?

I’d seen four sets of keys in various rooms, so the first thing I did was collect them all up to see if I could unlock the door. It’s here that I ran into the same old interface problem. There’s no use action, nor is there an unlock action, so I was forced to try completely random things like put and place, then click on the door and hope for the best. Since the game doesn’t tell you things like “you cannot do this” or “that’s not the right key” and instead responds with “???”, I had to go through this process with each key to make sure I wasn’t simply trying to wrong one. None of them worked, so I began to think about how I might break in. I tried putting and placing the screwdriver and the dagger on the door but to no avail. I tried knocking on the door again and was surprised to actually get a response from within, but still couldn’t see any way to get in. It’s here that Daubeur offered up more assistance, suggesting that if Leo wouldn’t give me the key, I might want to try taking it from his room. I’d already searched every room for items, so it was a bit depressing to find out that I’d missed something. I went back to what I figured was Leo’s room and looked through the cupboard again. No key! I started scouring the rest of the room, selecting search and clicking on everything I could see. Still no key! Just when I was starting to wonder whether Daubeur was sent to planet Earth with the goal of misleading me into suicide, I found it!

I'm sure some of the one liners in the game seemed funny at the time!

Now when I tell you how I found it, you’re probably going to think it all sounds very obvious and that perhaps The Trickster isn’t an ideal gamer to be blogging his way through a kabillion adventure games. I beseech you to give me a chance to explain why this sort of puzzle should be banished from the genre for all eternity! To find the key, you need to select the Lift action and then click on the pillow on the bed. Here are just a few reasons why that’s too hard. 1. To this point in the game, searching anywhere other than cupboards and draws reveals absolutely nothing, so in a way the game trains the player to simply not waste time using the numerous actions anywhere else. 2. There’s nothing in the game that lets the player know that to progress any further, you need to access Julia’s room somehow, so it’s easy to assume that the room will become accessible at some stage and to look elsewhere for something to do. 3. My previous experience with the game had led me to believe that using keys on doors was impossible. The lack of an appropriate action, such as unlock, and the vague results of my previous attempts to do so had pretty much squashed the idea. 4. While there’s a chance that some players might turn their attention to trying to steal the key out of Leo’s room when he says he wants Julia’s room to stay locked, it’s by no means an obvious approach to take, particularly when you’ve already searched his room and didn’t find a key. 5. Looking at or Searching the pillow does not reveal the key, you have to Lift it. Given how specific and yet unclear the key under the pillow puzzle is to begin with, surely the developers could have been a little more lenient with its resolution.

Julia's Room: How old did you say the victim was exactly? Nine?

I’m happy to admit that even when I knew I was supposed to get into Julia’s room, I couldn’t do it. Even when I knew the key was in Leo’s room, it took me a long time and a heap of trial and error to find it. It’s fair to assume then that without Daubeur’s help, I would not have progressed any further in Mortville Manor. But…that’s one of the reasons why having this blog is so great. There’s a community of readers to help me out of these sticky situations so I can get on with the game without spoiling anything else. Right now I’ve got the third parchment and while it’s once again entirely cryptic, it’s given me some direction. “Take your prayers as you would to the holy place” seems to suggest that my next clue might be found in the chapel and “from the pillar of wisdom , bring the sun to his knees” the altar with the sun engraving. Despite all my whinging and complaining about the interface, solvability and translation in Mortville Manor, I still really want to know what happens. I guess that’s what makes the flaws so frustrating as they delay my attempts to piece together what is an intriguing mystery. Here’s hoping my next post contains some unassisted success.

Cryptograms were all the rage in 1950's France


  1. I'm glad you're at least moving forward. Having a community to give hints is definitely a great benefit. Good luck with making more progress. The game seems to suffer more from poor interfaces and translation compared to anything else. Maybe things are clearer in the French version?

  2. Wow, this game seems sadistic. But then again, the Marquis de Sade was also from France. :P

    1. So what you are saying is that The Trickster would post faster if she had a hot women in leather stand behind him lashing him with a whip while he plays?

  3. I was about 14 when I played this game for the first time, back then we didn't have an online community, rather a schoolyard :).
    This game is indeed unforgiving, but I think the idea behind this is that the designers didn't want players to just try stuff and go pixel hunting.
    I agree the result is very frustrating...
    The English version of the scroll seems easier to understand than the French one, so I'm confident your next post will announce your victory :)

  4. I feel like this game would respond well to an update. Collapse a bunch of options into Use, update the interface, clean up the translation, add a few hints, clarify, some of the game logic, and you probably have a good adventure game.

  5. Somewhat ironic to find guess-the-verbs in a graphic adventure.

  6. I just read through the entries for this title and it honestly seems like a total nightmare. I always loved graphic adventures, but I can't tell you how many times I abandoned them because they were so unwieldy or frustrating. You've got some dedication, I'm glad everything on my list is at least decent... I think.